Muslim Woman in Virginia Claims Asking For Prayer Break Cost Her Job

A Muslim woman in northern Virginia claims she was denied a job because she asked about taking two five-minute prayer breaks during her shift.

In a suit filed in federal court on Tuesday, 26-year-old Shahin Indorewala maintains her interview for a junior management position with Fast Trak Management in Falls Church was going well—until she inquired about taking the breaks in exchange for a shorter lunch.

Observant Muslims are expected to pray five times a day, where ever they may be. With the schedule for the job set for 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Indorewala said she knew at least two of those prayer sessions would take place during business hours.

Indorewala says she was offsite speaking with an assistant manager named Josie at the time. When she asked about the prayer breaks, Josie reportedly told her, "Thats not going to work—we have fixed hours," and ended the interview abruptly. The two returned to the office, where Josie allegedly told Fast Trak CEO Ramses Gavilondo that the "hours don't work for her."

muslim woman
Shahin Indorewala says she was denied a job because she asked about taking two five-minute prayer breakers in return for a shorter lunch period. Getty Images

Indorewala says she asked Gavilondo if there was any accommodation that could be made. But instead of addressing her request, Indorewala claims, Gavilondo made fun of her hijab and refused to employ her.

"He said, 'Religion? I don't want to deal with that here. We don't want those shenanigans here," she told reporters at a press conference Wednesday outside Fast Trak headquarters. "He pointed to my headscarf, making hand movements and being very loud... I felt very humiliated, but first I was in shock. [I thought], Am I really being made fun of for my religion in public?"

Indorewala said she felt hurt and embarrassed but left quietly because she "didn't want to make a scene."

Zanah Ghalawanji, an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), says the case is an obvious example of religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for sincerely held religious beliefs unless doing so would pose an unreasonable burden on the employer. "Two five-minute prayer breaks don't impose any kind of burden on an employer," said Ghalawanji.

Gavilondo insists he passed on Indorewala because she "wanted to preach her religion."

"We ask people to keep religion to themselves. I don't see the need for religious preaching in the 21st century." He maintains an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation after the September 2018 interview turned up no wrongdoing.

Indorewala insists she did no preaching of any kind, and was already on her second round of interviews when the incident occurred.

Virginia is home to approximately 200,000 Muslims, the majority of whom live in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C.