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Hertz Properly Fires 26 Muslim Drivers for Failing to Clock In and Out for Prayer Breaks

Hertz recently fired 26 Muslim drivers for failing to clock in and out for their ten minute breaks.  The union representing the employees claims discrimination based on religion.  Hertz’s conduct is a great example of the value of having and following reasonable Company policies. 

The drivers claim Hertz, at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, fired them because of their religion.  However, Hertz explains they fired the drivers for failing to clock out and in for prayer breaks.  Washington State law allows for two ten minute breaks.  Hertz never denied any employee a break, and has accommodated the prayer schedules of its Muslim employees for over fifteen years.  Hertz even designated a space for prayer.  Finally, under its collective bargaining agreement with Teamsters Local 117, the employees are required to clock out and in when taking their ten minute breaks.  Despite all this, the drivers began abusing their breaks, leaving for more than ten minutes to do non-prayer related things and failing to clock in and out.  Hertz verbally warned the employees that they were violating company policy, counseled the employees, and then issued written warnings after the conduct continued.  After continuing to ignore the clocking in and out policy, the employees were discharged. 

The employees claim Hertz discriminated against them because of their religious requirement to pray at certain times.  Hertz continues to deny such a discriminatory motive.  Hertz explained it has several other Muslim employees who follow the company’s clocking in and out policies and who were not fired.  Also, eight of the discharged employees have since received their jobs back, because they agreed to clock out and in for breaks.  Hertz says it will reinstate the other discharged employees if they also agree to follow the policy.  In the meantime, the union has been protesting outside Hertz.  It will be interesting to see if they file a lawsuit against the company. 

For now, employers should note that Hertz followed all the proper procedures to protect themselves from liability, including thorough documentation.  They gave verbal and written warnings and counseled the employees on proper workplace conduct.  They also bargained over the issue with the union.   In addition, there are many other Muslim employees who were not fired because they follow company policy.  Given these facts, one would hope and expect Hertz will prevail if litigation is ever filed against the Company.

Brody and Associates regularly provides counsel on civil rights issues and employment laws in general.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.965.0560.