“My job is important to me. I am trying my best to make sure our inmates are prepared to go out into society and not return back to prison because of not being prepared adequately.” Akili Ujima, a CLCMA client and a Special Learning Needs Coordinator for the Bureau of Prisons, spoke these words to an Administrative Judge last week in his complaint seeking religious accommodations to allow him time to attend Friday prayers. Since 2013, he has been requesting the right to attend Friday prayers, at the mosque across the street from where he works, during his lunch hour. He asked for the same thing last week in his testimony.
CLCMA attorneys Christina A. Jump and Leila E. Mustafa represented Mr. Ujima in the administrative trial before the EEOC, which took place virtually due to ongoing restrictions. We are hopeful for Mr. Ujima that the ruling will be in his favor, and look forward to presenting our report to the judge on the impact this discrimination has had on him over the past seven years.
“An hour and a half, once a week, on Fridays. That’s all Mr. Ujima requested be accommodated so he could practice his sincerely held religious beliefs,” began Ms. Jump in the closing arguments to the Administrative Judge. In response, his employer “just said no,” continued Ms. Jump. The wardens “didn’t speak to Mr. Ujima, didn’t consult with Human Resources, or Legal, or Chaplaincy services. They just said no. Mr. Ujima asked again. He was denied again. The agency cannot point to a single accommodation that it ever presented during the relevant time frame. No accommodation has been offered, and that is a violation of the law.”
“I will never be able to express what I felt when I listened to the closing argument, and just how proud I am of the exceptional work that CLCMA is doing day in and day out,” stated Mr. Ujima after the trial concluded. “This has been a long journey, but individuals like you make it all worth the while. Thanks for believing in me. Thanks for continuing to represent me and thanks for helping to protect and improve the future of this nation. I never knew what was around the corner; it could’ve been everything, or it could’ve been nothing, but I was ready to take the first step, and I wouldn’t have gotten this far without the help of CLCMA.”
CLCMA will continue to work on behalf of Mr. Ujima and its other clients, to ensure they receive the religious accommodations the law entitles them to receive.