Hertz fires Muslims for not clocking out to pray

Two Hertz transport buses are seen outside its rental-car pickup area July 17, 2006, at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.
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SEATTLE - A Hertz spokesman says the rental car company is disappointed 26 Muslim transport drivers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport chose to be fired rather than agree to clock out for prayer breaks.

Spokesman Richard Broome says eight other drivers who had been suspended Sept. 30 were reinstated after they agreed to time their prayers.

Hertz suspends Muslim workers for praying on job

Broome says clocking out is a reasonable requirement because some employees had failed to return to work promptly after prayers. The drivers move rental cars for cleaning and refueling.

Teamsters Local 117, which represents the workers, said the two sides were unable to negotiate an agreement that would have allowed the workers to return to their pre-suspension status, under which they wouldn't have to clock out to pray.

Union spokesman Paul Zilly said the workers were given an ultimatum to sign the clock-out document.

The union has filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. The union also is filing religious discrimination charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The union represents nearly 80 Hertz drivers who earn between $9.15 and $9.95 an hour. About 70 percent are Muslims.

Observant Muslims pray several times a day.

Hertz said the suspended workers were violating provisions of a collective bargaining agreement and a settlement with the EEOC reached two years ago.

If Hertz felt some employees were abusing the break policies, it should have dealt with them individually, Zilly said.

The union 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.