March 22, 2005


Dell Reinstates 31 Muslim Employees (RNS, 3/22/05)

The company, together with advocacy groups, announced March 17 that a settlement between the workers and the world's largest computer systems company had been reached. The settlement includes back pay for the employees and full reinstatement of their jobs, as well as provisions for religious accommodation. [...]

In addition to reinstating the workers, the settlement provides that employees be granted paid time away from their work areas to pray, "as long as those requests are reasonable," said a statement released by Dell, the contract employer Spherion Corp. and the Nashville Metro Human Rights Commission, which helped mediate the dispute.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based advocacy group, helped to broker the settlement.

"This settlement can be used as a model by other production facilities that employ large numbers of Muslim workers," said Arsalan Iftikhar, the council's legal director, who participated in the negotiations.

Way to give your company a black eye needlessly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 22, 2005 12:37 PM

How can paid time to pray ber reasonable?

How about being paid to chant incantations to (insert name of your deity here)?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at March 22, 2005 1:29 PM

"How can paid time to pray ber reasonable?"

I get two fifteen minute breaks per day (paid). If I choose to pray during those breaks, that's reasonable.

Posted by: John Newquist at March 22, 2005 1:41 PM

You're posting that comment from work, right?

Posted by: joe shropshire at March 22, 2005 1:44 PM

Joe: Shhhhhhhhh!!!

Posted by: John Resnick at March 22, 2005 2:00 PM

ahem - HP is the largest computer systems company in the world (post-merger) by actual size -- IBM is largest in sales and profit.

The real problem here is that Dell uses contract labor to fill these positions rather than hiring these employees direct. Had they worked for Dell they could have worked this out without firing these guys and saved themselves some embarrassment.

But these employees work for Spherion, a company that has no real contact with the contract workers they provide to Dell, nor does Spherion have any power to change the work rules that Dell puts in place. So these contractors (which is another way of saying valuable full-time employees who work without benefits) end up between the devil and the deep blue sea. On one side they have a company with which they have no negotiating power (Dell) and on the other side they have a company that should be representing them (Spherion) that has never had any real contact with the workers and even if they cared couldn't do anything to change the work rules at Dell.

Posted by: Shelton at March 22, 2005 2:33 PM

Are saying that Dell had not previously allowed Muslims to pray during break time? I don't get it.

Posted by: h-man at March 22, 2005 2:38 PM


I think the thing was that the employees wanted to take their breaks at odd times and at different times from day to day (to match up with sunset or somesuch) rather than at regularly scheduled times.

Posted by: Shelton at March 22, 2005 2:55 PM

Muslims pray five times a day at a proscribed time. Asking an employer to provide for that kind of prayer commitment is ridiculous. Pray before work, during morning break, lunch time, afternoon break and when you get home. There's no need to have your prayers written into a work contract.

This is getting ridiculous. Moral equivalency is making me sick. Do you think I'll have my getting nauseous when they bring out the prayer rugs, will qualify for workman's comp?

Posted by: erp at March 22, 2005 2:58 PM

And don't they have to wash their feet in the sink?

Posted by: Sandy P at March 22, 2005 3:04 PM

But at least they don't squat on the toilet like some other people groups.

Posted by: ratbert at March 22, 2005 3:15 PM


Strangely enough they were quite easily accommodated.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2005 3:44 PM

If you view inconviencing other workers at the plant an easy accomodation. While they're off baying at the moon or whatever, work continues to need doing. Are Dell and Spherion giving all the other workers a similar break off or only Muslim workers the only ones so privileged?

These people are being paid for a full shift and are only being expected to work a full shift less the berak time for 'prayer,'while the other workers have to work the full shift and in fact have additional responsbility heaped on them because the Muslims are out caterwauling when they should be working. How is that fair to the work force?

Posted by: bart at March 22, 2005 4:34 PM

I am starting a new religion where followers must be allowed to drink and smoke whenever and wherever they want, and we are demanding (quite rightly) the same amount of tolerance as is given to adherents of the Mohammedan heresy.

Posted by: carter at March 22, 2005 4:50 PM


Yes, they have breaks. These folks asked to use theirs for scheduled prayers.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2005 5:08 PM

Bart: that bizarre sect known as "parents" forced this on us long before these guys ever showed up.

Posted by: joe shropshire at March 22, 2005 5:12 PM


Only twice during normal working hours. Tell us, is your point that they should be denied prayer or denied work?


How about we agree to do time and motion studies on these guys and compare their productivity with the natives?


You really are quite funny. Half the time you are telling us how productive your work is and what a boon to the nation you are, while the other half you boast about your copious alcohol consumption and how you have a constitutional right to buy booze at 2:00 am.

Posted by: Peter B at March 22, 2005 5:27 PM


That can't be the story. If they're on break, the break is for a fixed amount of time and they go off and do whatever they do. Some people go for a smoke or a cup of coffee, while others engage in Howling for Allah. The problem was the timing of their breaks, which should be a management issue because the breaks should be structured to reflect the variation in the workload during the day.

Joe, I don't have a clue what you're talking about.

Posted by: bart at March 22, 2005 5:29 PM

Bart: I meant I cover for people (men and women) running to pick up their kids/running to drop off their kids/spending a day with a sick kid all the time. The kids don't seem to coordinate their various activities and illnesses with the "variation in workload during the day" either.

Posted by: joe shropshire at March 22, 2005 5:41 PM

wait until these guys find out Dell makes its computers out of pork byproducts...

Posted by: cjm at March 22, 2005 5:59 PM


The breaks should accommodate the needs of the workforce as well. Now they do.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2005 6:01 PM

Well, though it doesn't happen where I work now, I used to have to work certain days when I would normally have been off, or do jobs that did not interest, because one of the others in our small group (of 5) had to take off the Jewish Holy Days.

This was a big deal, and accommodating him was less irritating than having to put up with evangelical Christians bothering me about their superstitions; but I'm glad it didn't come up every day.

I'd probably have felt differently if I'd dreamed all my life of being on a winning World Series team and missed out because the pitcher had to take off to pray -- to take a rare but real example.

I don't know how 'easily accommodated' those Muslims were.

It would depend on what everybody was doing.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at March 22, 2005 6:22 PM

No one ever does much that matters more.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2005 6:40 PM


It worked for Winston Churchill.:) My commercial and my private life are quite separate. It is tough to achieve the necessary degree of meticulousness if one has a bag on, learned that in grad school. And it's not a question of my constitutional right to buy booze at 2am, it is the constitutional right of someone else to sell it at that hour.


If people had to run after the sick kid on a constant basis and lose significant amount of work time so they could not perform their alloted functions for which they get paid, they get fired. As long as we remain employees, we all are compelled to make certain sacrifices to maintain our status.


The breaks are a matter of managerial prerogative only. The company could decide to have no breaks whatsoever if it believed that would make sense. The notion that a group of Muslims have an entitlement to time for shouting 'Death to America' or 'Two Bits. Four Bits. Six Bits. A Dollar. All for Khomeini stand up and holler.' 5 times a day regardless of what the commercial realities of the job are, is just plain nuts.


I've always felt it was wrong for me to be able to take off Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when my colleagues could not, even though I do it anyway. But Christmas is the best day of the year to go to the office. It's quiet, phones don't ring, you can bring the doggie, you can spread out in a conference room without guilt, you can turn up the reggae music on the stereo really high, and you can get a lot done without interruption etc.

Posted by: bart at March 22, 2005 6:57 PM


No, they aren't. The company took such a bath publicity wise they had to do the decent thing instead of indulge their officiousness.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2005 7:01 PM

No need to feel guilty, Bart. I'm quite sure your co-workers don't mind.

Posted by: joe shropshire at March 22, 2005 7:21 PM

Actually Bart its Texas state law to give two fifteen minute breaks a day to all 40 hr week employees. So if they're gonna take the break let 'em pray.

So get a grip Captain Bly - smart managers cut their good employees some slack and in return they get better work from their employees. If you don't let your workers take care of some personal business every now and then and if you won't even let them shift their legally mandated break then you can't expect them to stay late when you need them or kick it up a notch at crunch time.

Dell is already having to import these guys from Africa since they can't find anyone in the US to work an obviously crappy job at obviously crappy pay. If they can't make these guys happy then where will they go? Is there anywhere more desparate than Africa?

Posted by: Shelton at March 22, 2005 7:37 PM


The company got harassed by a group of socialist, terrorist-coddling busybodies known as the 'Nashville Metro Human Rights Commission.' Had they hung tough there was no real case. But, they made a commercial decision to cave. Had they decided they could live without selling cheap computers to people whose highest aspiration is flying planes into American office buildings, they could have kept their policy. But instead they chose to preserve market share.


In our office, about a third of us actuaries, including my boss, take off for the High Holy Days. Not a whole lot gets done when we're not there, but I don't begrudge them for it. I am a hyperactive maniac in the office but not in a bad way. :)

Posted by: bart at March 22, 2005 7:41 PM


It remains a matter of managerial choice. I'm not arguing the wisdom or lack thereof in having breaks. I'm arguing about the nature of it being somehow an 'entitlement.' In Texas, apparently, it is. But there is a difference between having 2 15 minute breaks a day and having 5 opportunities to roll out the prayer rug and start chanting about killing the infidel.

Nor am I arguing against giving people personal time, I am merely reminding people that some employees are happy to exploit the generosity of managment.

Obviously, the company felt they could hire enough workers without changing their policies without the succumbing to the ukase of the 'Nashville Metro Human Rights Commission,' so your point about having to go to Africa is moot.

Posted by: bart at March 22, 2005 7:48 PM


No, it isn't. They made their choice and it was reversed.

Posted by: oj at March 22, 2005 8:42 PM

They chose to reverse it after considering its impact on their business as well as the cost of maintaining their practice. The cost of refusing to give special treatment to the Moon God worshippers just wasn't worth the hassle. The commisars at the Nashville Metro Human Rights Commission would see to that.

Posted by: bart at March 23, 2005 9:14 AM

Yes. The decision was reversed for them.

Posted by: oj at March 23, 2005 9:46 AM

That is the stuff of the Mafia, not government.

Posted by: bart at March 23, 2005 10:52 AM

No, it's the stuff of business. Managers are inflexible officious nitwits who need only bad publicity to be smacked into line.

Posted by: oj at March 23, 2005 10:55 AM

So your position is that Dell Computer should be run by the Nashville Metro Human Rights Commission instead of by its management team? And what does that have to do with conservatism, free markets or the Constitution? Let alone the complete leap of faith it takes to allow people from the Permanently Pissed Off Civil Rights Lobby(tm) to determine what is or isn't a proper business practice, instead of deferring to management decisions.

Posted by: bart at March 23, 2005 11:27 AM


It's called the market. They did considerable damage to their corporate image and decided to stop shooting themselves. Of course, were hey conservative they'd have accommodated a reasonable religious request in the first place.

Posted by: oj at March 23, 2005 11:32 AM

The Nashville Metro Human Rights Commission is many things. Latter-day Bolsheviks. Meddlesome busybodies. Protection racketeers. Terrorist enablers. Muslim-loving nihilists. But they are most definitely not 'the market.'

The timeline is as follows:

1. Dell's affiliate fires the Muslims.
2. The Muslims, aided by the terrorists at CAIR, file a complaint with the Nashville Metro Human Rights Commission.
3. Dell's affiliate reinstates the Muslims, essentially caving in to their demands.

That is laying supine in response to government pressure. But for the intervention of the government the Muslims would not have been reinstated and would be on the slow boat back to Mogadishu right now much to the relief of ordinary Nashvilleans. It is not the action of the marketplace, other than one could describe paying off your local mob boss as the action of the marketplace. Dell's decision to cave into the local 'Human Rights' camorra was no different from that of the candy store owner who gives Luca Brazzi a few hundred bucks a month so his place of business doesn't suffer an unfortunate accident.

The 'free market' does not include extortion.

Posted by: bart at March 23, 2005 11:47 AM

The free market is nothing but the extortion of the consumer. Bigotry is expensive.

Posted by: oj at March 23, 2005 11:53 AM

The free market is the open exchange of goods and services, with necessary information readily available, without interference from the government and without any individual player having too much power.

Extortion? What's next Proudhon's 'La propriete', c'est le vol?'

Posted by: bart at March 23, 2005 3:40 PM


Yes, once the information was out the decision was made for them.

Posted by: oj at March 23, 2005 3:43 PM