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Former muslim Whole Foods employee sues for religious discrimination

Glenn Mack, Jr., a muslim man who formerly worked at a Whole Foods grocery store in Philadelphia, is suing the company for religious discrimination. Mr. Mack’s troubles with Whole Foods began when he notified management of his intention to take 18 days off from work so that he could go on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Mr. Mack was told that he was not guaranteed his job back when he returned from his pilgrimage. His supervisor told him “you can choose, it’s either your job or your religion.”

Mr. Mack chose his religion and went on his pilgrimage. Pilgrimages of this kind, called Hajj, are a requirement for all muslim people who are capable of traveling to Mecca.

When Mr. Mack returned from Hajj, Whole Foods demoted him from full-time to part-time status. Co-workers also began to interfere with his prayer time. Prior to his pilgrimage, he had always gone to pray in a secluded area away from customers during the periods of the day when his religion dictated that he pray. Due to interference from co-workers, he resorted to praying outside next to a dumpster.

Mr. Mack complained to human resources about the treatment he experienced when he returned from his pilgrimage and he was restored to full-time status. Three months later Whole Foods fired him allegedly for attendance reasons, however, he had not received any warnings from Whole Foods about his attendance before his termination.

Under state and federal law, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees so that they can practice their religion. They also may not discriminate against an employee because of his religion. If you believe your employer is discriminating against you because of your religion or is unreasonably failing to accommodate your religious customs, you should contact the Maine Employee Rights Group to discuss your rights.