December 9, 2023

Shaina Zafar wakes up around 4:50 a.m. in New York City, cooks some eggs and eats them with a bagel and coconut water before imsak, the time to stop eating and drinking. He prayed and set his intentions for the day before the sun rose. Co-founder and chief marketing officer of JUV Consulting, Zafar went to sleep before waking up again for his work calls around 8 am. She kept awake till midnight to do some work after night prayer.

In Toronto, Thamina Jafri wakes up at 3:30 a.m. to prepare and eat sehri, the pre-fast meal—porridge with apples and nuts, some berries, and homemade Pakistani flatbread with minced meat curry and yogurt – To make him stay till sunset. He drank two large bottles of water and a cup of herbal tea, then prayed. Jafari was able to get some rest before waking up again for her temporarily adjusted work start time of 10 a.m. instead of her usual 9 a.m., an accommodation she had requested from her manager a month earlier .

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“Our schedule turns upside down in Ramadan,” said Jafari, a senior equity, diversity and inclusion consultant at Turner Consulting Group. “You basically have to wake up in the middle of the night and start eating.”

,‘Our schedule gets reversed in Ramadan.’,

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– Thamina Jaffrey, a senior equity, diversity and inclusion advisor at Turner Consulting Group

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan falls in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar; Muslims abstain from food and drink from dawn to dusk for 29 to 30 days, and also follow a prayer schedule and pray five times a day. For some, this also includes a long extra prayer at night or in the mosque.

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This year, Ramzan began on the evening of March 22 or March 23, depending on the geographical location and sect of the Muslims. It will end in late April with Eid al-Fitr, a festival and celebration that includes feasting, gift-giving and prayer. This year, Eid is expected to fall on April 21 or April 22 in North America, depending on the first sighting of the new crescent locally.

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For Muslims who observe Ramadan, fasting can cause their energy levels to fluctuate, and many may experience fatigue and headaches. Considering possible family responsibilities, this month can be particularly difficult on an emotional and physical level. When it comes to planning sleep schedules and work meetings, Muslim workers say, it’s always a game of strategy: Work schedules shift in many Muslim countries during Ramadan, forcing workers in the US and other countries to adjust their schedules. Must work around existing school or job schedules.

Experts and advocates say companies and managers should take proactive steps to include employees observing Ramadan, rather than offloading workers entirely. But workers should also know their rights so they can advocate for their own housing, he says.

Knowing Your Rights and Seeking Housing

In the US, reasonable accommodation for a worker’s religious practice is a protected right under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against an individual because of their race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. prevents. The law requires an employer to provide “reasonable accommodation” for an employee’s religious practice unless doing so would create “undue hardship”—significant hardship or financial expense—to the business.

Reasonable accommodation and undue hardship are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but in general, courts have sided with employees who have been denied accommodation, according to muslim lawyer, a national civil-rights group representing American Muslim communities. The group said in a fact sheet that the weighing of undue hardships would include considering the cost of housing as well as their potential to risk workplace efficiency or safety or to infringe on the rights of other employees. Muslim advocates said religious accommodations can vary depending on the individual, and may involve scheduling changes or reassignment of responsibilities and tasks.

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Career experts said it is important for Muslim employees, especially younger employees, to know their rights so they can ask for what they want.

Jafari said, “Am I asking for too much?”, “I really don’t need it,” and “They don’t even need to know I’m fasting”. He said the same applies for employees taking care of children or elders at home.

What the workplace could look like for Ramadan

Inclusion experts said knowing about Ramadan is one thing, but understanding what living space might look like is another.

Jafari said she once overheard a manager tell a Muslim employee on the phone that they would not accommodate the employee’s sleeping schedule. While she didn’t say anything at the time, she said she felt upset on behalf of the employee.

Jafri said that the sleep schedule during Ramadan should be provided by the main housing managers. Jafari, for his part, asks for his work hours to be adjusted so that he can get a little more sleep in the morning. She divides her daytime sleep into three-hour increments to ensure she can meet her prayer schedule and maintain her energy level at work, and occasionally during her lunch break. Takes a short nap.

Meanwhile, Zafar blocks off her calendar for Friday prayers at 1 p.m., when she leaves for the Islamic Center at New York University. She also takes short breaks for prayer throughout the day.

,‘Am I asking for too much?’, ‘I don’t really need it,’ and ‘They don’t even need to know I’m fasting’ all run through the minds of youth workers.,

– Thamina Jaffrey, Senior Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor, Turner Consulting Group

Zafar said that for young workers going from school to work, Ramadan can be more taxing, from sitting in on lectures to actively participating in meetings. And this is where the flexibility of working from home can help.

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Jafri said, working from home during Ramzan is like a dream come true. She said the ability to work remotely not only brings a sense of control over your bedtime, but also the space, temperature and environment your body may need during fasting.

The most grueling Ramadan for Jafri was when he had to go to work every day, meaning he had to wake up around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. Jafri sometimes had to bring a humidifier into the office, because the dry air made him feel sick. Had made her more dehydrated when she was not drinking water during the day.

Once in the office his nose started bleeding. Jaffrey tackles it in the washroom, and his manager checks him out. Jafari said, “They were really nice, but I don’t think they really understood what I was going through.”

Zafar’s company JUV Consulting has published a guide for companies on Ramadan.

Courtesy of JUV Consulting

Jafri said that with Eid round the corner, it is necessary to allow employees to take leave. The festival is celebrated for one to three days depending on the country and community. Because Islam uses a lunar calendar, the dates vary by year and geographic location. He said that Muslim employees will not know exactly how many days of leave they need ahead of time.

“I’ll just tell [my manager] Jafri said, ‘Hey, it may fall from this day to today, and let’s make contingency plans.’

However, contingency planning can look very different from industry to industry, and is generally easier for office workers than people whose jobs require manual labor, Jaffrey said.

For service sector workers, she recommends giving managers and co-workers early notice and considering options like taking early shifts instead of night time shifts.

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