According to the Florida Times-Union, an eight-person jury awardedthe money to Fareed Ansari on Wednesday (March 29). Ansari said he wasfired from Ray's Plumbing Contractors of Jacksonville in July 1997because of "early absences on Fridays."
Ansari began working for the company a month earlier and told hisboss he would need to leave work early on Fridays to attend a weeklyprayer service. Ansari said his supervisor said, "No problem."
Ansari offered to work extra hours throughout the week or onweekends to make up for the lost time. He said he had done this withprevious employers, but Ansari's boss said that would not be necessary.
When Ansari went to pick up his paycheck in July, he was directed tothe company's offices and was given a termination notice. PatriciaDodson, Ansari's attorney, said that other employees complained thatAnsari was missing Friday afternoons.
"I felt devastated," Ansari said. "I was in shock. I felt betrayed."
The jury used the 1964 Civil Rights Act to uphold Ansari's case. Thelandmark legislation says employers must make reasonable accommodationsfor an employee's religious practices. The jury awarded $100,000 inpunitive damages and the rest in compensation for lost wages.
A company attorney said he was "very disappointed" in the verdict,but company officials could not be reached for comment.
Ansari said he was grateful for the verdict.
"As a Muslim American, it's wonderful," he said. "I'm grateful forthe Constitution and a country that has it."