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Muslim drivers, Hertz at odds over reasons for suspensions

By Associated Press
October 8, 2011

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SEATTLE - Thirty-four Muslim drivers for Hertz contended they were suspended for praying during work hours, but the company insisted they were reprimanded for abusing break times.

Backed by their union, the drivers protested this week outside the Hertz counter at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where they are based.

“This is an outrageous assault on the rights of these workers and appears to be discriminatory based on their religious beliefs,’’ Tracey A. Thompson, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 117, said in a statement.

Observant Muslims pray five times a day.

Hertz said the workers suspended last week were violating provisions of a collective bargaining agreement and a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reached two years ago.

“The breaks were getting extended way beyond prayer time,’’ said Rich Broome, a spokesman for Hertz Global Holdings Inc. “It’s important to understand that several Muslim employees who are complying were not suspended. It’s not about prayer . . . it’s about reasonable requirements.’’

Broome said employees are required to clock out to keep breaks within the 10-minute limit. Those who were suspended had not been doing so, he said, adding that managers spoke with each worker and posted the rule before the suspensions took place.

The union, though, said the clock-out rule was implemented without warning, adding that Hertz agreed in bargaining last year that its employees would not be required to clock out.

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