While applying for a job in Virginia, a Muslim woman asked a manager if she could have special breaks throughout the day for prayer. When the employer offered her the same breaks as the other employees and was allegedly mocked, the woman filed a discrimination lawsuit.
Shahin Indorewala, 26, has experience working as an educator, specializing in children with special needs. However, when she applied for a junior management position at Fast Trak Management, a marketing firm in Falls Church, she suddenly discovered that it wouldn’t be as accommodating as she expected.
After a successful first interview, Indorewala was invited back for a second interview by an assistant manager named Josie. According to the devout Muslim woman, the exchange was going well until she brought up her special needs, which included several prayer breaks at specific times during the day.
Newsweek reports that, during an interview, Indorewala requested special prayer breaks to be able to pray in the afternoon. She says that Josie explained to her that all employees receive an hour-long lunch break. When Indorewala insisted that she’d need to shorten her lunch period in order to have a couple of 5-minute breaks for praying, she was allegedly turned down.
“She promptly ended the interview. She said, ‘That’s not going to work. We have fixed hours here,’ ” Indorewala said.
Indorewala claims that she was escorted to the office of Fast Trak CEO Ramses Gavilondo, who explained why the position’s hours weren’t compatible with her requirement. She alleges that when she explained to him that she must pray multiple times a day, Gavilondo pointed at her hijab and made disparaging comments about Islam.
“Am I really being made fun of for my religion in public in what’s supposed to be a professional workplace? … Clearly I was being discriminated against because of my religion,” Indorewala said. “That was it. I just kind of quietly left the office. I didn’t want to create a scene or anything, but I was pretty hurt and pretty embarrassed.”
Indorewala contacted the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which assisted her in filing a religious discrimination lawsuit against the firm. CAIR has alleged that the company has “disregarded federal law and chose not to hire her because of her faith.”
In response to CAIR’s accusations, Gavilondo came forward to give his version of the events, which are vastly different from Indorewala’s. He claims that he was still considering hiring her when she decided that she didn’t want the job, The Washington Post reports.
Gavilondo says that he remembers Indorewala bringing up her faith but denies that she specifically requested special prayer breaks throughout her shift, which would from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“Someone came for an interview. They didn’t want to work here. … It’s like me going to a store to buy Kit Kats, and then I don’t want to eat the Kit Kats,” he said.
Gavilondo also denies making any comments concerning Indorewala’s hijab. In fact, he claims that he allows his employees to wear whatever makes them feel comfortable.
“I’m not a fashion expert. People can wear whatever they want,” he said.
Indorewala is insisting that the firm rejected her application because she is a Muslim. However, the company has denied violating the law, arguing that the process was a typical hiring negotiation that resulted in the applicant declining the job opportunity.
The mere accusation of discrimination is enough to financially cripple a small business. Unfortunately, even if the company wins the lawsuit, they will likely have to spend an exorbitant amount of money in the process.