- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2023

A Maryland Muslim who says Southwest Airlines fired him from a ramp agent position at Baltimore-Washington International Airport over a request to attend Friday prayers has asked the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to take up his case.

Justin Mavins, who also goes by Dauwd Mavins, said in the complaint he was terminated after one month on the job because of his “sincerely held religious belief” that attendance at the 30-minute Friday prayer services was mandatory.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights and advocacy group, filed the EEOC complaint on Mr. Mavins’ behalf.

“All workers have the constitutionally-guaranteed right to reasonable religious accommodation in the workplace,” CAIR staff attorney Zanah Ghalawanji said in a statement. “We will protect the religious rights of American Muslims and all those who seek to practice their religious beliefs while at work.”

The Mavins complaint comes as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments this spring in another workplace-related religious accommodation case.

Gerald Groff, a longtime U.S. Postal Service employee who is a Christian, is challenging that organization’s refusal to accommodate his need for Sundays off as a day of worship.

Mr. Groff’s case seeks to overturn a 1977 ruling which said employers only have to provide accommodation with minimal impact on operations.

Mr. Mavins said he began working for the airline on Nov. 28 at BWI. He said he was scheduled to work from 5:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. on Dec. 16, a Friday, a move that would cause him to miss the prayer service that he believes is a religious obligation.

An initial exchange of emails with the carrier’s labor relations team suggested he could get an accommodation to attend the weekly worship service. The following day, however, Mr. Mavins was told by a supervisor the accommodation would not be granted.

Mr. Mavins responded by taking personal days off to fulfill his religious obligation, but that ran into trouble on Dec. 22, when the airline declared a “state of emergency” due to massive scheduling woes that snarled flights for days and stranded thousands of customers, many of them separated from their luggage.

Employees were informed the company will deny all requests for personal absences and those agents who do not work their shifts will be terminated.

The complaint quoted Mr. Mavins as saying he “called out” from work on Dec. 23 “due to my religious obligation.”

Southwest terminated him five days later for having failed “to pass probation.”

A termination letter quoted a Southwest manager as saying, “I regret to inform you that observations of your attendance have led us to conclude that you are not suitable for this job.”

On Wednesday, Southwest told The Washington Times via email the airline has not received anything “thorough official channels,” but has seen the CAIR document.

“Once we receive the official Charge from the EEOC, we will research the claims and engage with the EEOC on next steps,” a spokesperson said.

The airline said it “is an Equal Opportunity Employer, and prides itself on an open and inclusive work environment that consistently ranks among the world’s best places to work” adding, “it is our goal to support our Employees and our Customers who come from all walks of life.”  

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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