A group of 34 Hertz employees, all Somali Muslims, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport have been suspended indefinitely for reportedly not punching the time clock before and after taking a few minutes to pray during the work day.
The issue at hand isn’t whether or not the workers were allotted breaks during which they could pray. They are given two, 10-minute breaks, neither of which are deducted from their pay. What’s being disputed is whether or not the Hertz shuttle drivers have been required to clock out before saying their prayers.
According to the Seattle Times, the Teamsters Local 117 union, which represents the suspended workers, says that management had previously agreed during negotiations that these workers would not have to clock out in order to pray. However, that stipulation was never put into writing.
The union said it has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board because it believes Hertz management should have notified the union of what it perceives to be a change in policy.
But a Hertz rep tells the Times that this is not a new policy these workers have been told that they were required to clock out, but that they chose to not listen.
“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,” says a Hertz rep, who added that Muslim workers who have been clocking out to pray were not suspended.
One employee tells the Times she wasn’t aware of the situation until she arrived to work on Friday, where she claims one of the managers said, “‘If you guys pray, you go home,” to a group of Muslim workers getting ready to say their prayers.
“I said, ‘Is that a new rule?’ And he said, ‘yes,’ ” she recounts to the Times.
She says the group proceeded with their prayers but alleges that managers attempted to interrupt them with taunts.