Ramadan Accommodations Gone Awry

Last year, during Ramadan, we commended some companies for taking proactive steps in accommodating their workforce during the month of Ramadan. We highlighted the efforts of Electrolux, a Swedish appliance manufacturer in Minnesota. In 2010, the EEOC mandated that the company allow their employees to take their usual 30-minute lunch break at sunset, to allow time to break the fast. 

Unfortunately, almost 150 Muslim Electrolux employees once again have no time or space to make ritual ablution, eat and pray in observance of Ramadan this year, and over a dozen employees are filing another EEOC complaint. Although Electrolux successfully accommodated their employees' needs last August, those scheduling changes didn't seem to carry over this year. 
 
In our benchmarking, we've found that many companies often suffer from inconsistencies.  For example, the company will go through the arduous give-and-take process of finding appropriate accommodations for religious employees, but then fail to institutionalize that accommodation for the following year. Or perhaps a successful policy is created for one branch of the company, but no efforts are taken to ensure that the policy is communicated company wide.  Some companies may not clearly think through how addressing religious diversity can fit into their overall business and diversity strategies, leaving their accommodations  ad-hoc, disorganized, and difficult to implement.   Creating and distributing policies and guidelines around accommodations can help avoid these misunderstandings and can prepare managers and HR to deal with similar issues and requests in the future.
 
As you may know, yesterday was the Eid al-Fitr, which signifies the end of Ramadan. But as the month-long observance ebbs to a close, we cannot help but reflect that there are some Muslims who were left feeling marginalized for their sincerely held beliefs. Next weekend will also mark the 10th Anniversary of 9/11. Don’t let your leadership be blindsided. Reactions to this anniversary will be diverse, as will your companies’ decisions to either acknowledge or ignore the event. While we cannot say there are any right or wrong ways to handle this day, we can provide some information. Click here to view fact sheets and guidelines for conversations that will help your employees and leadership prepare for the day.