A national Muslim organization says it wants to mediate with Dell Inc, over 30 Somali workers who are at the center of a dispute over prayer at work. The Council on American and Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C. sent an e-mail and letter yesterday to Dell president and chief executive Kevin B. Rollins after the Nashville newspaper, The Tennessean, reported that the workers walked off their jobs last month because they were forced to ”choose between their faith and their employment.”

The workers, who loaded boxes or operated forklifts at Dell’s Nashville plant, requested time off to pray at sunset and were told they could not, said Ibrahim Hooper, executive director of the council. Dell spokesman T.R. Reid said the Texas-based computer manufacturing firm has a longstanding policy of accommodating workers of different religious faiths. He said Dell is working with the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission in Nashville ”to better understand and resolve the issue.”

”There were some contract employees at our operation there who evidently were involved in something that was an anomaly in terms of a dispute with their manager over prayer breaks,” said Reid. Specialists say such disputes are becoming more commonplace as diverse groups of people enter the workplace, bringing different forms of worship. In addition, companies like Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., are permitting prayer at work as part of their diversity programs as long as praying does not disrupt work and participants in prayer groups do not force their beliefs on co-workers”¦



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