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The Hertz car rental agency has indefinitely suspended 34 Somali Muslim shuttle drivers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for praying during the workday.
The Hertz car rental agency has indefinitely suspended 34 Somali Muslim shuttle drivers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for praying during the workday, The Associated Press reports.
The workers’ union, Teamsters Local 117, has responded by filing an unfair-labor-practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Hertz for failing to notify the union in advance of what it claims is a policy change, the AP reports.
All Hertz shuttle drivers are allowed two paid 10-minute breaks, in addition to lunch, during their eight-hour work shifts, and the Muslim drivers used their breaks to pray, Seattle Weekly reports.
Tracey Thompson, the secretary-treasurer of the workers’ union, said Hertz verbally agreed during negotiations last year that the Muslim workers would not have to clock out for prayer breaks, even though all employees are required to clock in and out when they go on breaks, Seattle Weekly reports.
The Muslim workers didn’t want to clock out because they didn’t want to feel "monitored" while praying, Thompson told Seattle Weekly. She added that the union had timed their prayer sessions, and they took around 5 minutes.
Hertz denied it had made such an agreement, the Seattle Times reports. Instead, the company claimed it had been trying for some time to enforce the terms of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settlement it reached with the workers two years ago that required all workers to clock out for all breaks. "We felt it was reasonable for our Muslim employees who need to pray a couple times during the workday to clock in and clock out," Hertz spokesman Rich Broome told the Seattle Times.
Broome told Seattle Weekly that the workers would not be allowed to return to their jobs "until they agreed to follow the rules."
According to the AP:
Hertz isn’t the only company to take action against Muslims praying. In 2009, a manager at a Minnesota Wal-Mart fired a man because he prayed during his breaks. He was later re-hired at another store when an advocacy group got involved and mediated with the retail giant.