Lawsuit: Man Was Fired Over Muslim Prayers

CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago man is suing his former employer in federal court, claiming he was fired because of his religious beliefs.

As WBBM Newsradio’s David Roe reports, Nathan Henderson is suing the American Bottling Company, headquartered at 15320 S. Halsted St. in Harvey.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s David Roe reports

Henderson claims he was fired as a delivery man after he asked his boss to allow him to plan his breaks on Fridays around Islamic prayers.

Henderson says he would conduct a prayer during his downtime between soda deliveries, which usually lasted 5 to 10 minutes.

But when he asked to take a lunch break from 1 to 2 p.m. on Fridays so he could participate in weekly Jumu’ah prayers, his manager Bill Hatten said “No, we don’t do that,” the suit said.

Henderson then asked if he could work on Saturdays instead of Fridays to make up the hours, to which he was told Saturday shifts were reserved for employees with the most seniority.

Hatten allegedly said: “I wish you would have told me you had this obligation before we hired you. We would not have hired you. Maybe you need to look for another job.”

The following Monday, Henderson came to work and discovered his timesheet was not in its slot. He was told to wait in the cafeteria, where he sat for four hours before being told by a branch manager “it was not working out” and he was terminated immediately, the suit said.

When asked for an explanation, the manager said, “We just got to let you go.”

The suit alleges Henderson’s time for prayer did not in any way affect the timeliness of his deliveries or his overall job performance, and that he was never reprimanded or disciplined prior to his Friday prayer request.

He was also never given a reason for his termination.

The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed the complaint on behalf of Henderson, who they say was “unjustly fired.” The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found the “evidence established reasonable cause to believe that the company discriminated against [Henderson] because of his religion, a release from CAIR-Chicago said.

The suit seeks all wages and benefits Henderson would have received; compensatory damages; injunctive relief against the company to cease and desist from discriminatory behavior; punitive damages; additional relief and attorney fees. It also demands a jury trial.

No bottling company representative available for comment Thursday evening.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

  • Dylan

    Rules are rules. Just like there is no crying in baseball, there is no praying aloud at work. You get payed to work, not pray. You want to pray? Quit your job and stay home all day and pray. Your god will be happy and so will your employer, because he doesn’t have to put up with you.

    • TRUTH

      Did you read that he asked to do it on his breaks, or are you such a bigot that it does not matter?

  • yup

    Uh-oh, now this man may come back and use techniques in the quaran and blow them all up! See what being a muslum has become in the USA! We now attribute it to terrorism…geez! Great job middle east!

    • TRUTH

      Are you aware that the founders of Al-Qaida were trained not in Islamic beliefs but by the C.I.A.? Geez! Great job C.I.A.!

  • DAVE


    • TRUTH

      Did anyone here actually read & understand the article or is this were bigots show there true colors when they hear Islam/Muslim?

  • Dee

    Welcome to America sport. If you don’t like it, move back to the middle east.

    • TRUTH

      Did they mention his place of birth? What would you say to a native American Muslim?

  • DENO

    Mr. Henderson has to realize that he is being paid for 8 hours of work. He is given a lunch break. It seems that somehow God is put into this box that requires this person to pray specific times each day. I don’t see that he should have been fired for the request. If they said “no” then it’s no. Mr. Henderson is then required to find some way to incorporate prayer into his schedule i.e. his lunch break. God’s big enough to understand that I’m sure. However, since he was fired without given reason other than this request, I feel he’s doing the right thing.

    • TRUTH

      In the Bible we are told that Daniel prayed three times a day, Daniel 6:10. If someone believes that God wants him to pray at certain times, that’s his right. He did ask to incorporate it into his schedule

    • BG

      All we have is his story. Maybe he caused a scene when they told him no. Is the eeoc giving him special treatment because he’s muslim?

      • TRUTH

        “No bottling company representative available for comment Thursday evening.”
        The company was given a chance to respond; should they be given special treatment because you don’t like Muslims?

  • jbc

    this is the bloodless jihad that has been implemented in europe
    sue for you rights and use the bill of rights against the populous until you get your way
    this is the CAIR gameplan to a T!
    make a stand now or sharia is our future!

  • Glenda Cain

    I’m sorry, just because he is Muslim doesn’t give him the right to expect his employer to give him extra time off, then give him extra hours to make up that time. Perhaps the employer should put him on “part time work”. i.e. NO BENEFITS. Stop catering to Muslims!

  • gypsi

    wow . all the guy asked to do is re schedule his break slot on his own route. meaning out of the office and basically free to do so w out them knowing. see i do this too. but it was an understandable request. not asking for more time just hey my fellow believers feel that this time of each and every day is sacred since im out here and not affecting others and i been here awhile w out any problems at all what ya say? i agree no is a reasonable answer. but damn man i aint for organized prayer in school or work but pray whenever u feel like praying . talk to god ur way. ur god our god our creator. any one met him yet ya didnt think so . sue sue sue!! not fair they scared and i get it i get scared too but we cant let them beat us like that !

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  • Steve

    I had a couple Muslims work for me when I was a security manager. They needed a couple trips for 15-20 minutes each time to go pray on Fridays. They were good guys, but it wasn’t fair that I had to schedule everything around them. I’m all for a citizen’s right to the 1st Amendment, but not when it becomes an inconvenience for the rest of the team. As an employee, you shedule your life around the job and not the other way around. If you’re going to need to go pray 2-3 times for 15-20 minutes than that should be brought up in the interview because it’s an inconvenience to have to plan around your employees rather than the other way around. Besides, if the 2nd Amendment isn’t allowed at the workplace than why should the 1st be?

  • john

    Any type of prayer should be welcomed by all of us specially when someone prays to God , don`t get me wrong , i respect the devotion to God that mulims ahve , it`s so beautiful to see a person kneels down to God .Mr.Henderson desearves better treatment not termination .

  • Derrick Reaves

    Employers are obligated to make “reasonable” accomodations to allow their employees to practice their religions, no matter what they might be per federal labor laws. I get 2 15’s and a 30 minute lunch. at most I have to make 2 of my daily prayers during work hours. I do them on one of my 3 breaks.

  • Derrick Reaves

    oh yeah, the actual prayer takes about 4-5 mins to recite. ritual washing ahead of the prayers is about a minute. doing this 5 times a day takes roughly 20-25 minutes. is 20 minutes a day for G-d really that much when we are given 24 hours in a day?

  • Gabe

    Johnny boy theres a time and a place for that. Taking time off to ” pray ” is not fair for the other employees. This is so stupid. Anything for a buck. Yeah, am gonna take time off to pray to the invisible man in the sky on the clock.HEY STUPID DO IT ON YOUR OWN TIME.



  • Reasonable Doubt

    I worked for the Burlington Northern Railroad and the Catholics were allowed time to attend mass on Sunday and we worked it out. In fact, I asked will you say a prayer for me! (Hawthorn Yard) Lastly, OLD VET you make a valid point, look what happened in Egypt!


    @ Steve, Did you ever have someone ask for a special schedule because of their first job, this being their second job?


    Weather Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, or what ever religion, I have found that when accommodated, they work even harder at their jobs & less likely to cheat in any way.
    OLD VET, Why must it always be ‘tit for tat’? I treat people according to my standards, not according to theirs, because I believe my standards are the best: If I switch to theirs, my actions would say that theirs is better.

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