On May 7, 2019, three anonymous Somali Muslim women, Ms. A, Ms. B, and Ms. C, filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Minneapolis, Minnesota against Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”), alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1961. These women claim Amazon’s Shakopee, Minnesota fulfillment center failed to accommodate Muslim employees’ religious needs, failed to promote Somali workers, and retaliated against workers who protested discrimination. Minnesota is home to some 30,000 immigrants from Somalia who started settling in the area in large numbers in the 1990s. Somali immigrants make up a sizable portion of the 3,000 workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee, Minnesota.
The women allege that Amazon denied them adequate space and time to practice their religion. They claim that employees feared taking time away to pray, since that lost time would reduce a worker’s “rate,” or how many items a worker packs per hour. The warehouse’s current packing rate is 240 boxes an hour, but it has gone as high as 400. Employees who regularly fall short of the rate—simply because they attempted to observe their religious obligations to pray—faced repercussions such as write-ups. Several employees stopped taking breaks to perform ablutions before prayer, broke their Ramadan fast, and stopped going to the bathroom.