How should we accommodate prayer at work?

A male Muslim employee was a passenger in a vehicle driven by a non-religious female. As they parked to await a job set-up the man turned the radio off in the vehicle and stated “You need to be quiet for a little while”, he then began a 7-minute afternoon prayer in the car. The female employee wasn’t happy with the way he went about it and would like to know if she has the right to ask him to wait or for him to leave the vehicle to pray, or to simply state that she would prefer he didn’t pray in front of her?

Posted 11-06-2013

Ann Kiernan replies:

I think she could have politely taken any of those three options, or she could have gotten out of the car herself, telling him that she felt uncomfortable intruding on his prayers, and would prefer to wait outside. Of course, it would have been better had the man said something like, “Excuse me, but it’s time for my afternoon prayers”, and left the car without being asked. Each side on religious accommodation issues needs to be respectful of the other.

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About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.