The Commission on Human Rights in New York City has ruled in favor of a Muslim employee of Columbia University. The university is now facing fines of as much as $250,000 for not allowing enough time off during the work day for Muslims during their observance of Ramadan.
The Muslim, who is no longer employed by the university, accused university Chaplain Jewelnel Davis, a Christian, of illegal discrimination based on religion. The complainant alleged Davis did not allow accommodation for prayer breaks during Ramadan and punished the complainant for taking five prayer breaks a day, according to the Columbia Daily Spectator. The former employee got a more favorable outcome from the human rights commission after an internal investigation by Columbia University exonerated the chaplain.
Besides the hefty fine, Columbia will have to reform its policies concerning the accommodation of religious traditions. Currently, the policy of the university is to make religious accommodation only if it does not place an “undue hardship” on the institution.
The complainant alleged that Davis gave religious accommodation to staff members adhering to other religious traditions and that the Muslim employee was subjected to reprimands for taking numerous breaks. Additionally, the female complainant complained that her workload was increased.
The former employee alleges that Davis said she “never had someone who works for me who takes so many breaks,” reported the Columbia Daily Spectator. Two other former and current staff members, who remain anonymous, corroborated the claim.
The university chaplain’s staff includes three advisers for Jewish students, six for Christians, and one each for Buddhists and ethical humanists.