Muslim workers at Amazon forced to 'choose prayer over bathroom' as longer breaks could get them fired
Muslim workers in Amazon's fulfillment center in Minneapolis held a protest to fight for their rights saying they don't have enough time to pray during shifts
Muslim workers at Amazon's fulfilment center in Minneapolis think they might be fired after taking multiple breaks to pray.
Practicing Muslims are required to pray five times a day but Amazon's mandatory packing quotas of 240 boxes an hour may affect their schedule. The e-commerce giant, on the other hand, denounced claims of workers being given a paid prayer break of less than 20 minutes but being allowed to take unpaid prayer breaks for longer periods, Daily Mail reports.
A group of Somali refugees in Minnesota who work for Amazon protested Friday to demand better working conditions just outside the Shakopee center warehouse. The protesters waved placards and said they were having their "bodies wear out because of the stress from increased productivity demands."
Speaking to Vox, 28-year-old Khadra Ibrahim said that as she is required to pack 240 boxes an hour, she is not able to take prayer breaks with ease. According to her, that number can vary as per demand. If staff fall behind the packing rate, the staff is apparently penalized.
Ibrahim said that the workers are at risk of getting fired as taking breaks slows down the required rate. "So most of the time we choose prayer over the bathroom and have learned to balance our bodily needs. Every time I walk through those doors, I am filled with this dread that tonight is going to be the night that I get fired," she said.
Awood Center, a union-backed organization that organized the protest, said on Facebook: "What a powerful show of unity and power! As we chanted tonight: 'The people, united, will never be defeated!'" However, Amazon said that "prayer breaks less than 20 minutes are paid, and productivity expectations are not adjusted for such breaks. Workers are welcome to request an unpaid prayer break for over 20 minutes for which productivity expectations would be adjusted."
A spokesperson for the company added: "We work hard every day to ensure all of our employees are treated fairly and with dignity and respect, including here in Minnesota where we have an open and direct dialogue with employees. Amazon offers a great employment opportunity with excellent pay — ranging here from $16.25-$20.80 an hour, and comprehensive benefits including health care, up to 20 weeks parental leave, paid education, promotional opportunities, and more.
"We encourage anyone to compare our pay, benefits, and workplace to other retailers and major employers in the Shakopee community and across the country. We invite anyone to see for themselves and take a tour through our fulfillment center tour programme."