Labor & Employment

Hertz Fires 34 Drivers at Seattle Airport, All Somali Muslims, for Praying on Company Time

Two years ago, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission helped unionized shuttle drivers for the Hertz rental car company work out a settlement under which they were allowed to clock out to pray during their two 10-minute breaks.

But that clock-out policy was never enforced, the drivers, who work at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, say.

That changed Friday, when 34 workers–all Somali Muslims–were suspended indefinitely for not clocking out before praying, reports the Seattle Times.

Their union, Teamsters Local 117, is trying to get them back on the job. Meanwhile, there is disagreement about what, exactly, changed last week.

A Hertz spokesman said workers had been repeatedly warned about the rule, and pointed out that those who clocked out before praying weren’t fired.

However, workers told a different story. Zainab Aweis told the newspaper she was unaware of any rule change and was simply warned, along with other Hertz drivers, by a manager on Friday that they could not pray, not that they were required to clock out first.

“He said, ‘If you guys pray, you go home,’ ” she recounted. “I said, ‘Is that a new rule?’ And he said, ‘yes.’ “

When they went ahead and prayed anyway, as religious Muslims do up to five times daily, they were taunted, she says.

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