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Friday, October 21, 2011

Hertz Fires 26 Muslim Employees Over Prayer Breaks

Hertz Fires 26 Muslim Employees Over Prayer Breaks

They Refused To “Clock Out” For Five Prayer Breaks

By Dell Hill

Hat Tip - Canary In The Coal Mine

There are laws and regulations which specifically require breaks for workers in just about every job description there is.  Full time employees are guaranteed breaks of a certain length for the number of hours worked and a meal break is almost always included for most full time workers.  Part time workers are also covered by law or regulation as to breaks during their shorter shifts.

What happened at the Seattle-Tacoma, Washington International Airport has grabbed national attention.  We get this report from Canary In The Coal Mine.

“Car rental firm Hertz fired 26 employees at its Sea-Tac Airport location for failing to clock out when they take their prayer breaks.

The employees say Hertz is trampling on their right to religious freedom, but the company says it's merely trying to promote fairness in the workplace.

"We feel like we're being punished for what we believe in," said former Hertz employee Ileys Omar.

Omar is a Muslim who prays five times a day.  In the past, Muslim employees at Hertz paused for their prayers without clocking out.

"It's five minutes.  It's not as big deal as the company's making it," Omar said.

But Hertz says some employees were abusing their privilege to pray. In an e-mail, spokesman Richard Broome said the abuse "had become a significant problem creating issues of fairness among employees."

Teamsters Union 117, which represents Hertz drivers, says a blanket policy is not the way to address such an issue.

"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," said union spokesperson Tracey Thompson.

The union provided KOMO News with a notice that was posted for employees at Hertz earlier this year.  It stated employees who want to take their 10-minute break in smaller chunks don't have to punch in and out, but must notify their supervisor.

Then on Sept. 30, Hertz posted a new policy that states all rest and meal periods must be punched, including all religious observation, according to the union.

"The company unilaterally implemented this policy to clock in and out, and specifically identified prayer breaks in their policy.  They have not applied the policy to people who take smoke breaks," Thompson said.

Hertz said clocking out is required for all breaks, and it is now enforcing that policy to prevent abuse.

The union says it is fighting the terminations through grievance and arbitration procedures and is also filing unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, as well as religious discrimination complaints with the EEOC.”

At some point a decision will be made on this issue and the loosing side is going to go berserk with anger.  Whether or not an individual company requires employees to punch out for their breaks has always been left up to the individual companies.  I’ve worked for public sector employers who absolutely required you to punch out for any reason you weren’t actually working.  I’ve also worked for private sector concerns that only required you to punch a time clock when your shift started and punch it again when your shift ended.  So long as you didn’t abuse the privilege by taking extra breaks, long breaks or long lunches, there was never a problem.

As for the five prayer breaks each day; I’ve never experienced any employee who was Muslim ask for that time off to pray, so I really don’t know what my former employees would have said.

That’s a lie.  I surely do know what my former employers would have said - “Hell, No!”  And that would have been every public and private sector employer I’ve ever worked for.  

I vividly recall one business owner tell a fellow employee, “You will clock out at break time and clock back in after your break or you’ll be looking for a new job.  Fifteen minute breaks tend to stretch into a half-hour or more very quickly and this is the only way to control that problem.  That’s the rule.  Follow the rule and we’ll get along just fine.  Disobey that rule and you’ll be terminated”.  And that was that!

This report didn’t address the question of whether or not the five prayer breaks were in addition to regular mandated breaks or if the break time was eaten up by the five, five minute prayer breaks.  It might well make a difference if the total break time was about the same.  If not, the employee would be getting basically a half-hour off, with pay, to pray and that undoubtedly not go over well with the other employees.

Prayer breaks, clothing that’s associated with religious beliefs, the refusal to reveal one’s face for ID photos based on religious beliefs...All matters that are rapidly coming to a head in the United States as the number of Muslim citizens continues to grow.

1 comment:

  1. From Facebook:

    Vernon Okbaok Commented on the blog...I'm not a fan of unions. Having spent most of my adult life working union jobs, I've seen the union win grievances like this.

    Unions protect lackeys...that is their purpose. But, this cannot stand. Just imagine if Christians tried the same thing. The story would never see the light of day.