Muslim Amazon Employees Protest Increased Workload During Ramadan

Amazon is wading into religious controversy.

Is Amazon's latest innovation creepy or genius?
Is Amazon pushing Muslim employees too hard? Noah Seelam/Getty Images

Amazon (AMZN) has often been accused of a toxic workplace culture, characterized by employee tracking bracelets and peeing in bottles.

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But the company’s latest controversy is more religious in nature.

Dozens of Muslim Amazon employees are protesting their increased workload during Ramadan. The workers are based at Amazon warehouses in Eagan and Shakopee, Minnesota, about a half hour outside of Minneapolis.

About 200,000 Muslims live in Minnesota—there’s been a steady flow of immigrants there since the 1880s. Minnesota was also the first state to send a Muslim (Keith Ellison) to Congress.

In spite of this, Muslim employees say Amazon doesn’t do enough to accommodate them.

The workers said they are now being forced to load heavy boxes into delivery vans all on their own (the job used to be shared by two people). The increased weight has caused workers to drop packages on their feet, and it’s also led to kidney pain.

Another common complaint is that work areas are too hot during the summer. There are fans on the factory floor, but air conditioning is only available in break rooms.

These issues have been exacerbated during Ramadan, a holy month of fasting and prayer in the Islamic faith. Observant Muslims don’t eat between sunrise and sunset during the 30-day period.

As such, employees have to work even harder to keep their energy up—and Amazon’s difficult working conditions make that almost impossible. Several staffers said they had to break their fast to drink water.

“I couldn’t even swallow my saliva,” Muslim worker Nimo Hirad told local media. “We love the work that we do, we just want the concerns that we have to be addressed and something to be done about it,”

What’s more, workers reportedly brought up their Ramadan concerns to management several months ago.

“When we complained, the managers said, ‘if you’re not able to do the job, quit,'” Hirad said.

An Amazon spokesperson denied the allegations in an email to Observer.

“We offer a positive and accommodating workplace for employees at this delivery station, including great pay of more than $15 per hour and benefits,” the statement read. “We respect the religious practices of employees and offer accommodations as needed.”

The spokesman also noted that the facility features a temporary prayer room and that Amazon is building a permanent one for employee use. Factories have also shifted break times during the night shift to accommodate Ramadan prayer.

Muslim Amazon Employees Protest Increased Workload During Ramadan