Muslim Cab Drivers Claim Employer Barred Them From Praying

Muslim cab drivers barred from praying Eight Muslim cab drivers in Orlando, Fla., claim their employer prohibited them from praying during work hours, and even assaulted and fired one of them for doing so. Now they're filing complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that they were discriminated against on the basis of their religion and national origin.

The eight Arab-American employees worked for Star Taxi, a member of the Transtar Transportation Group, which provides taxi, luxury SUV and limousine services in the Orlando area. They allege that various supervisors told them that they would be fired if they were caught praying at any of the company's service stations, even though employees of other faiths regularly prayed and read religious material.

"When other employees are allowed to go on a smoke break, or read the Bible, Muslim employees are prohibited from praying," said Hassan Shibly, one of the attorneys representing the men. He's also the executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights group in the U.S. "They're making them choose between their religion and supporting their families. It's crazy," Shibly explained.

One manager, Laura Jackson, allegedly told other employees at the company to let her know if they saw Muslim employees praying, and to take a photo if possible. Mohamed Foued Benhassine, one of the plaintiffs, who worked at Star Taxi since July 2011, claims this policy -- which his supervisors refused to provide in writing -- left him "feeling like an outcast in society, unwelcomed because of my religion, and suffering from tremendous guilt and emotional distress...."

On Jan. 8, Benhassine says that he went on his break to one of his usual secret prayer spots, by an outlet mall's dumpster. He says another employee saw him doing this and told Benhassine that he was breaking the rules and that he would have to report him to Jackson, then his co-worker snapped a photo.

Jackson allegedly came outside, and tried to snatch Benhassine's taxi keys from his hand. "He said, 'This is my right. This is America,'" says Shibly.

She continued to "attack" him, Benhassine claims, and threatened to tow his cab, with all his belongings in it, unless he handed over the keys. He relented.

"Legally, that's assault," says Shibly.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it's illegal for employers to discriminate against anyone on the basis of his or her religion, which means making "reasonable accommodation" for any religious needs. "They're not asking for accommodation," says Shibly. "Their prayers only take around five minutes. They're asking not to be harassed."

Last October, 26 Muslim drivers for the rental car company Hertz similarly claimed that they were unfairly fired for praying. Hertz said, however, that the problem was that the drivers would clock-out for their prayers, and not return on time. The Star Taxi drivers, on the other hand, say their prayers in no way interfere with their work.

The plaintiffs also claim that they were prohibited from speaking in a language that wasn't English at any time, with an automatic $25 fine if they did so.

"They came to this country because of religious freedom," says Shibly. "It's shameful this is happening in America."

Transtar Transportation Group could not be reached for comment.



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arnibah

MESSAGE TO MUSLIMS
You must realize that the USA is a Godless country.This is clear proof.

March 03 2013 at 10:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
arnibah

I hope they break that cab company.

March 03 2013 at 10:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BillyB

The problem is when people expect that Muslim's will be reasonable to deal with. When has that ever worked out for anyone?

June 11 2012 at 12:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Alexander

To the many posters. I'm just giving my unbiased opinion of the FACTS according to this article: That FACT is 1) he was actually off the clock and on a break for several minutes and not being paid 2) he was by a dumpster, praying quietly before someone caught him 3)taking a picture of him and being followed shows malicious intent to try and get him fired in spite of him being OFF THE CLOCK 4) threatening to tow someone's vehicle with their stuff in certain circumstances is considered robbery and assault. If the drivers were indeed late for their shifts that's a different story. However, I've worked in the hotel industry before. Alot of these drivers sit around or stand around most of the time trying to get passengers at hotels which they are subcontracted under. Personally, I believe this was all a set up to try and get them terminated. I've watched salaried workers walk in and out of their offices a half hour to an hour late for work and from lunch and nobody says a word. Double standard? Yeah, totally. I say as long as they clock out and go pray by the dumpster on their time, then what's the problem?! It's THEIR TIME, not the companies time. Creating an analogy that this somehow relates to praying in the classroom or federal institutional guidelines is ludicrious. Classrooms and public schools are run by the state who are subjected to the jurisdiction of the Federal government. Hence, they must strictly follow the seperation of church and state amendment under the constitution. The kids are on Uncle Sams time as soon as they walk in the door. If they don't like it, GO TO PRIVATE SCHOOL where you can be taught creationism and adhere to that fairy tale. StarTrans Transportation and Hertz Rental are private companies that must adhere to such legalities as well. Especially, when their employees are technically not their employees when they are on a break and evidently trying their best not to get in the way. I mean seriously, who prays next to a dumpster?! Only a devout person would when left with no other option. I would love to see a priest, bishop, or pastor do the same....

March 16 2012 at 12:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Alexander's comment
masuodish

perfect

March 24 2012 at 9:21 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
DaltonCooper

why don't they go back to their own country where they have all the time in the world to pray but here some people rely on work to support their families

March 15 2012 at 4:01 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Mike

If I get a ******* taxi driver, I'm the one who ends up praying.

March 15 2012 at 11:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
judithgrayson

don't hire them. maybe they'll go away (pleeeeeeze). oh and btw, obama notwithstanding, america ISN'T a muslim country.

March 14 2012 at 11:20 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to judithgrayson's comment
Alexander

I hate to break it to you. But technically it isn't a christian one either. It just so happens that the constituents happen to be christian in the majority that's all.

March 16 2012 at 12:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wdeb478

ok wait , This guy cant pray while working (umm no one does that in America for fear they may lose their job and or be replaced to a transplant from another country !! ) Christian children can no longer pray in school, in god we trust is removed from most things, one nation under god is removed from the Pledge of Allegiance ....What the hell is gping on here in America. What is this guy whinning about ????

March 14 2012 at 4:47 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to wdeb478's comment
Alexander

He was off the clock and not working. He was on a break according to the article. His rights were clearly violated by the company that he worked for. Especially since he wasn't even getting paid at the time.

March 16 2012 at 12:35 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
yasser12.yasm

That God is Forgiving, Merciful. But do not forgive from the idolaters. I hope to understand

March 26 2012 at 4:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Wassup

Everybody in here is posting the same stuff about your getting paid to do a job so do it. When a person in school is injured they cant participate in physical ed Right? When a person is sick they shouldnt go to work Right? When a person is diabetic are they going to take there insulin on their break? All of those examples have some type of effect on work. Or when they have an attack during work?. Stop being prejudice and rude. If all of you's practiced something that had to be done while you guys were at work everyday you'd do the same, and feel the same way if your employer fired you because of discrimination. You would also file a suit and sue for discrimination so GTFOH. I bet the majority of the people on here who agrees with one another is white. Go figure. Do your research before you guys have anything else to say. All of you's are ignorant,selfish, and flat out disrespectful.

March 14 2012 at 2:16 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Wassup's comment
Alexander

Well to a certain extent I agree with you. What people fail to realize is that they have not read the article well enough! He was not working, off the clock, and just praying a dumpster! Not only was his civil rights violated, but his right to privacy rights under the first amendment were also violated by the company.

March 16 2012 at 12:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rjnarvick

Some of the muslims I have known look white to me. The mistake is that most here are discriminating against people that have certain beliefs. I know a guy that was born into a christian family that later converted to being a hindu. He was born in the "holy land" and cannot tell his beliefs to anyone there for fear of violence against him. The guy is as white as anyone. I quit being a "superior white american" years ago.
I deal with this stuff the same way I deal with homosexuals: Let God be the judge. I am just a speck of dirt here. It is not our job to judge others. Live by the golden rule and you will be fine in our country. If you feel muslims are breaking the creators orders they will eventually pay the price.
At least they do believe in a God. I worry more about those that don't. Nowhere in the Koran does it say to be violent or kill. Lets learn to know the difference between a terrorist and someone that just has defferent views than the majority of us have,

March 03 2013 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TheMan

I remember working at a pizza joint when I was 18, and we had a delivery driver who was Muslim. He would just stop everything he was doing, roll out a carpet in the middle of the store, and start praying. He didn't care that there were many deliveries that needed to go out. He didn't last long there. You're hired to do a J-O-B.

March 14 2012 at 12:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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