An American Muslim woman says a potential employer in Virginia made fun of her religion and denied her a job because she asked for two five-minute prayer breaks during the work day.
Shahin Indorewala is suing Fast Trak Management, a sales and marketing company based in Falls Church, over its alleged refusal to accommodate her religious beliefs.
Indorewala said Wednesday that she was “hurt” and “embarrassed” by the company’s response to her request for prayer breaks. Praying at five set times during the day is one of Islam’s core requirements.
“Clearly I was being discriminated against because of my religion,” Indorewala said at a press conference organised by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the advocacy group that filed a lawsuit in federal court this week on her behalf.
Indorewala, a 26-year-old who currently works at the Center for Autism & Related Disorders, applied for an entry-level manager position at Fast Trak last fall to get more experience in the marketing sector, according to the complaint. During her second in-person interview with the company, she was reportedly informed by an assistant manager that the job included a 90-minute lunch break.
Indorewala said she asked if she could shorten the lunch break and instead take two five minute breaks during the day to pray. Indorewala claims the assistant manager informed her that this wasn’t possible and abruptly ended the interview. The assistant manager then walked Indorewala to a common area and told company CEO Ramses Gavilondo in front of other staff that the “hours don’t work for her,” the complaint states.
Gavilondo allegedly “threw his arms up in the air and chastised her exclaiming ‘this is a business.’”
“He then pointed at her hijab and mocked her, saying ‘Religion? I don’t wanna deal with that here. We don’t want those shenanigans here,’” the complaint states. “He took Ms. Indorewala’s file, crossed out her information, and refused to hire her.”
Indorewala said she was “humiliated” by the exchange.
“I was in shock, I think it took me a while to let it sink in,” she said during the press conference. “I was like, am I really being made fun of for my religion in public, in what’s supposed to be a professional workplace?”
HuffPost has reached out to Fast Trak Management for comment.
Gavilondo told the Associated Press that he didn’t hire Indorewala because she “wanted to preach her religion.” He added that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated the situation and found no wrongdoing.
“We ask people to keep religion to themselves,” Gavilondo said.
The company’s website states that it has a “strict diversity policy that ensures everybody gets the equal opportunities they deserve, both when they are hired initially, and when promotions are available.”
Indorewala said she wasn’t trying to preach about her religion, the AP reports. The complaint also states that Indorewala filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC last November and that it notified her of her right to sue in June.
Zanah Ghalawanji, a staff attorney with CAIR, insisted that Indorewala’s request for religious accommodation did not impose an undue burden on Fast Trak’s office operations. Prayer breaks can be taken in a private area without disturbing other employees, and at predetermined times, she said.
“Fast Trak has absolutely no basis for what they did and they were very clear in the fact that they refused to hire Shahin because of those breaks,” Ghalawanji said.