SEATTLE — Twenty-five former Hertz drivers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport have filed a lawsuit claiming they were fired based on their race, religion and nationality.
The former employees are Muslims who were born in Somalia.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court claims Hertz Corp. terminated them after they refused to clock out for prayers. The lawsuit claims they had not been required to clock out previously and the rules were changed to target Somali Muslims.
Hertz officials could not be reached for comment after business hours. But a spokesman said previously that other drivers who were suspended in September returned to their jobs after agreeing to clock out.
The workers who are suing want to be reinstated with back pay, plus reimbursement of lost benefits and attorneys’ fees.
The Globe and Mail – September 23, 2011
Famine in their homeland has brought 20 young Canadian-Somalis together to walk 350 kilometres to reach the nation’s capital. They’re bonded by a common goal: to raise money and awareness for a humanitarian crisis that the United Nations estimates has killed tens of thousands of people and threatens, over the next four months, to starve to death 750,000 Somalis.
Walk for Somalia is one of several youth-driven groups that has formed in Toronto in response to the drought, violence and famine ravaging the African country. Long-time community leaders say they’re seeing an unprecedented level of engagement among young Canadian-Somalis, a spirit they hope will eventually be channelled into challenges facing other Somali youth in Toronto.
The UN has declared famine in six regions of south Somalia, which is mainly controlled by Islamist militants known as al-Shabaab. Toronto houses one of the largest Somali populations in North America and Europe. Canada’s official census pegs the Somali population at nearly 38,000, but the Canadian Somali Congress believes the figure actually stands around 200,000, with the majority residing in Toronto.
A federal panel said Monday that it believed Greeley meatpacker JBS Swift violated the civil rights of more than 100 Somali Muslims it fired last year after a walkout over religious differences at the height of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest time.
The determination by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission comes exactly a year after hundreds of Somali workers left the slaughterhouse because the company wouldn’t accommodate requests for
The Muslim workers had demanded time to pray at sundown, the end of a dawn-to-dusk fast, a requirement of Islam during Ramadan. More than 300 workers walked out when told they could not break for the day’s final
prayer. About 103 workers were fired days later, not for walking off the job but for not returning to work, Keys said.
The walkout touched off a storm of protests, mostly among workers of different religious faiths who railed at the request for religious accommodation. Federal law requires employers to accommodate the religious requests of its workers.
The EEOC determined Swift had violated a portion of the civil-rights act that forbids certain forms of discrimination in employment. Specifically, it said Swift engaged in a “pattern and practice of discrimination” that included harassment, a hostile work environment, discriminatory job assignments and discipline. It also said Swift denied religious accommodation and retaliated against workers who complained about it.
Concerns about racial profiling and other questionable tactics used to investigate the possible terrorist recruitment of Somalis living in the United States are prompting some Muslim leaders in Saint Louis and elsewhere to limit their cooperation with the FBI.
Federal agents are intensifying their efforts to make connections and conduct investigations within the Somali community across the US, as concerns grow that some are being recruited to radicalization and association with al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists. About two dozen teenagers and young men have disappeared from the Minneapolis area, and returned to the Horn of Africa over the past two years, according to the FBI. Some critics say that what the FBI calls community outreach to bridge closer ties to US-Somali communities, actually involved the use of coercion, threats, and intimidation. “The Somali Muslim community in particular feels they are under siege by law enforcement,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).