October 21, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - More than two dozen Somali Muslim drivers for Hertz at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are being fired after refusing to clock out for daily breaks during which they normally pray.
The Associated Press reports that Hertz said the suspended workers were violating provisions of a collective bargaining agreement and a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reached two years ago. However, Teamsters Local 117, which represents the workers, said the break clock-out requirement is not in the contract and Hertz had agreed during negotiations last year that it would not require it.
According to the AP, the union has filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, and said it is also filing religious discrimination charges with the EEOC.
The 26 workers drive the company's rental cars to and from the airport for cleaning and refueling. They are among 34 Hertz employees suspended September 30 for failing to clock out before breaks. Eight of the 34 signed a clock-out agreement and have returned to their jobs, company spokesman Rich Broome told The Associated Press in an e-mail. Termination letters have been sent to the rest.
The company made it clear the suspended workers needed to agree to the clock-out conditions by the end of the day Thursday if they wanted to be reinstated, Broome said. Earlier this month Broome told the AP, "It's not about prayer, it's not about religion; it's about reasonable requirements." The news report noted that observant Muslims pray several times a day.