A Muslim man who was employed by Southwest Airlines at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is alleging the company discriminated against him by not allowing him to swap shifts in order to attend weekly religious services.
Justin Mavins, also known as Dauwd Mavins, started working for Southwest Airlines in November as a ramp agent, whose responsibilities include loading luggage and ushering planes, according to a complaint filed Tuesday with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. His employment was terminated exactly one month after his start date because he used personal days to attend Friday prayer services, including during a “state of emergency” for Southwest in late December, the complaint states.
In an emailed statement, Southwest Airlines said it will “research the claims and engage with the EEOC on next steps.”
“Southwest Airlines 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 … Our People are our greatest asset, and it is our goal to support our Employees and our Customers who come from all walks of life,” the Dallas-based airline said in a statement.
Around Christmas, hordes of travelers were stranded at BWI and other airports as Southwest canceled more than 16,700 flights nationwide. Various factors contributed to the meltdown, including a winter storm and outdated crew-tracking technology, the president of the Southwest Airlines Pilot Association told a U.S. Senate committee last week. During the emergency, Southwest sent out a memo to ramp agents that said anyone who failed to work their regular shifts would be terminated, Mavins’ complaint states.
On multiple occasions during his employment with Southwest, Mavins requested accommodations and asked his manager to move his shift on Fridays to afternoons so he could attend religious services, called jum’uah, which the complaint describes as “akin to Sunday Church service,” beginning around 1 p.m. and lasting about 30 minutes. Mavins worked morning shifts, which began at 5:45 a.m. and ended at 2:15 p.m.
When Mavins’ accommodation requests were denied by Southwest, he used personal days to attend religious services, including during the state of emergency in late December. Southwest terminated Mavins’ employment before the end of his six-month new employee probationary period, stating “observations of your attendance have led us to conclude you are not suitable for this job,” he alleges.
Mavins is being represented by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group in the United States, which alleges Southwest violated state and federal laws.
“Especially in increasingly tumultuous times, faith plays an important role in the lives of many people, including Muslims,” said Zainab Chaudry, director of the CAIR office in Maryland, in a statement. “When employers are flexible and allow their employees the right to practice their faith, they thrive. This boosts morale and impacts overall work performance and outcomes. This case should not have come to this, but we’re proud of the courage CAIR’s client exhibited in speaking up for his rights, and hope it inspires more employers to grant reasonable accommodations in accordance with federal law.”