Hertz Suspends 34 Muslim Drivers In Prayer Dispute

SEATTLE (AP) — Thirty-four Muslim drivers for auto rental company Hertz claimed they were suspended for praying during work hours, but the company contended they were reprimanded for abusing break times. Backed by their union, the drivers protested Wednesday 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 not about religion; it’s about reasonable requirements.”