Muslim worker claims DTE bias over prayers

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
DTE headquarters next to Beacon Park in downtown Detroit on Thursday July 20, 2017

A civil rights advocacy group has filed a federal complaint against DTE Energy on behalf of a former worker who alleges he faced discrimination and unfair discipline by a supervisor over his religious rituals.

According to a grievance that the Michigan chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations filed Wednesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Ibrahim Canales, who is a Muslim, was allowed to attend Friday prayers when he joined the Detroit-based company in early 2017 by working extra hours daily to compensate for the time lost. 

But that changed when another supervisor arrived two months later, the filing states. 
“Canales’ new supervisor now refused to allow him to leave to attend Friday prayers, despite the fact that several other non-Muslim employees were allowed to work long hours during the week and take Fridays off completely,” CAIR-MI officials said in statement. “When Canales obtained permission to leave on Fridays from other supervisors, he received disciplines that were later dismissed as being unfounded.”

That supervisor also tried to require Canales to use his personal and vacation time to attend prayers, despite the fact that he was a salaried employee who was working his required hours each week.  

Though eventually allowed to resume his previous schedule, the worker claims in the complaint that he received biased final and mid-year evaluations that affected his pay, bonuses and promotion opportunities.

The treatment pushed Canales, who has a nuclear energy specialization, to leave DTE and find another job out of state, CAIR said.

“Mr. Canales was asking for a reasonable religious accommodation, an accommodation that was enjoyed by many people at DTE. Yet, he was denied and punished for his requests,” said CAIR-MI staff attorney Amy Doukoure on Wednesday. “Nobody should have to choose between suffering in a toxic work environment or uprooting themselves and their family simply because they chose to practice their faith." 

Reached for comment Wednesday night, DTE Energy officials said the company “is an equal opportunity employer and we are committed to providing an inclusive environment for our diverse workforce of more than 10,000 employees.

"We can’t speak to the specific allegations as we have not received the charge. However, a preliminary review of records shows that Mr. Canales’ request for religious accommodation was approved and implemented. With respect to his performance, DTE does not comment on confidential HR records.”