The Ariens Company says it has fired seven of its Muslim workers for continuing to take unscheduled breaks for prayer.
The Brillion-based company began enforcing a policy last month that requires workers to stay on the assembly line, other than during scheduled breaks. The issue had become a problem because of 53 employees were leaving at set times of day for prayers, in accordance with their Muslim faith.
Ariens officials said those absences were disrupting work at the facility, which could cost them upwards of $1 million a year in lost productivity.
The company, which makes lawnmowers and snow blowers, said it was simply enforcing an existing policy on unscheduled breaks, which became an issue as dozens of employees started to violate the rule.
In a statement, a company spokeswoman said they had worked directly with the workers on an individual basis, in order to reach the best possible outcome. In the end, 32 employees chose to stay on and work under the break policy, another 14 resigned, and seven were terminated for continuing to take unscheduled breaks.
The statement read “We handled this with the same straightforward approach we use every day at Ariens Company. Recognizing there are language barriers and cultural differences, we allowed for extra time. We would have liked for more of the employees to stay, however, we respect their faith, we respect the work they have done for Ariens Company and we respect their decisions.”