Clash of civilizations in Tennessee. From The Tennessean, with thanks to Jeff Lastname:
Whirlpool was within its rights to tell a Muslim plant employee that he could not take a few minutes a day to say his religion’s required sunset prayers, a federal jury decided yesterday.
The decision was a rebuff to Somali-born plaintiff Ibrahim Farah. Whirlpool argued that allowing the practice for all its Muslim employees would have been too disruptive at its La Vergne assembly plant.
”I thought that a religion was trying to dictate to a private entity,” said juror Gordon Stannerd.
The three-day trial before U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger culminated two years of litigation that pitted a religious duty against the production schedules of an air-conditioner manufacturing line.
The eight-member jury took about an hour to reach its decision yesterday.
Attorneys for Farah had described Whirlpool’s refusal to allow their client about five minutes of prayer each evening as evidence of religious discrimination. They argued that the plant where Farah worked from 1996-2001 was rife with prejudice against Muslims who took seasonal jobs at the Whirlpool factory.
But David J. Parsons, Whirlpool’s lead attorney, countered that the corporation had welcomed its growing number of Muslim employees and had accommodated their religious needs, implementing dietary changes at the company cafeteria and permitting headdresses as long as they were within safety guidelines.
Fierce competition had forced the company to trim its salaried employees drastically, he said, at a time when its ranks of seasonal workers were rapidly filling with Muslims such as Farah.
Having as many as 40 Muslims at one time leave the assembly line to pray for a few minutes each evening was more than Whirlpool could reasonably allow, Parsons said.
The jury agreed.