More U.S. employers are taking steps to make Muslims feel accepted and safe at work, as their faith comes under scrutiny with the rise in terror attacks and calls by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for a ban on Muslim immigrants.
Companies are setting aside rooms for prayer, organizing group discussions about the religion and planning office parties without alcohol. The motivations may be principled, but the moves are practical. Managers want to keep talented workers and avoid conflict, and litigation.
Office rules and constitutional rights have collided for decades, but the tension takes on new weight in an era of heightened apprehension about Islam, especially after the slaughters in Nice and Orlando and as some Republicans, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, suggest Muslims be vetted to determine if they should be allowed to stay in U.S.
“The atmosphere is so toxic now that even having constitutionally protected religious accommodation in the workplace can somehow be controversial,” says Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which filed complaints on behalf of Muslims fired in January from a meat-packing plant after they staged a walk-out to protest what they said were restrictions on their ability to take prayer breaks.