A few weeks after being put on suspension, more than 20 Muslim drivers were fired by Hertz for refusing to clock out before taking prayer breaks.
The dispute stems from the car rental company’s new policy that requires all employees to clock out before breaks, even for religious observation, the Associated Press reports. All company employees receive two 10-minute paid breaks during an eight-hour shift.
Hertz officials say the 34 Somali Muslims who work at the Sea-Tac Airport location in Seattle that were placed on suspension were given the option to sign a document agreeing to abide by the policy, but 26 of them did not comply and were fired.
Clocking out for breaks would not affect pay. The employees were against the policy because they “feel monitored during their religions rituals,” according to the Seattle Weekly.
Hertz said some of the employees were taking breaks that exceeded the 10-minute limit, and they’re reinforcing the policy in an effort to “promote fairness in the workplace,” Seattle’s KOMO reports.
“It’s not about prayer, it’s not about religion; it’s about reasonable requirements,” Hertz spokesperson Rich Broome told the Associated Press.
Teamster 117, the union representing the workers, said they tried to negotiate with Hertz before they terminated the employees, but that the company thinks it’s a fair solution to the problem.
The union says the company should have taken a different approach to the problem before instating a general rule.
“If there’s a problem with the performance or the conduct of any employee, you have the right to deal with that employee individually. That’s not what they did here,” union spokesperson Tracey Thompson, told KOMO.
The union filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, the AP reports.