2016-06-30
(RNS) A jury in Jacksonville, Fla., has awarded a Muslim man $105,216 after his employer fired him when he wanted to leave work early on Fridays to pray, an obligation required of Muslim men.

According to the Florida Times-Union, an eight-person jury awarded the money to Fareed Ansari on Wednesday (March 29). Ansari said he was fired from Ray's Plumbing Contractors of Jacksonville in July 1997 because of "early absences on Fridays."

Ansari began working for the company a month earlier and told his boss he would need to leave work early on Fridays to attend a weekly prayer service. Ansari said his supervisor said, "No problem."

Ansari offered to work extra hours throughout the week or on weekends to make up for the lost time. He said he had done this with previous employers, but Ansari's boss said that would not be necessary.

When Ansari went to pick up his paycheck in July, he was directed to the company's offices and was given a termination notice. Patricia Dodson, Ansari's attorney, said that other employees complained that Ansari 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. The landmark legislation says employers must make reasonable accommodations for an employee's religious practices. The jury awarded $100,000 in punitive 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 for the Constitution and a country that has it."

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