Zainab Aweis, 20, is one of the Somali Muslim
shuttle drivers Hertz suspended
for not clocking out during prayer
Thirty-four Somali Muslims who drive airport shuttle buses for Hertz were suspended Friday over a dispute over praying on the job.
Aweis, had always taken time out of her shift each day to pray.
An observant Muslim, she prays five times a day — with one, sometimes two of those prayer times falling during her shift.
"That was the one benefit of the job," the 20-year-old said.
On Friday, she and 33 other drivers — all of them Somali Muslims — were suspended indefinitely from their jobs after they took religious breaks to pray while at work without first clocking out.
A spokesman for Teamsters Local 117, which represents the workers, said it is trying to get the workers back on the job.
Both the company and the union late Thursday said they were waiting to hear back from the other.
While the drivers were allowed two, 10-minute breaks during their work shifts during which they could pray, Teamsters officials said managers had agreed in negotiations that workers would not have to clock out and in, though the contact itself does not address the matter.
And the workers and their union said Hertz had previously not required that workers clock out for prayer. The union said it has filed an unfair-labor-practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board against Hertz for failing to notify the union in advance of what it called a policy change.
But Hertz said the rules aren't new; that it had been trying for some time to enforce the terms of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settlement it reached with the workers two years ago that required them to clock out.
A Hertz spokesman said the workers had been repeatedly told they needed to clock out and that the 34 suspended workers had not complied.
"We felt it was reasonable for our Muslim employees who need to pray a couple times during the workday to clock in and clock out," said Rich Broome, spokesman for Hertz.
Broome said it's not about pay — break time is paid time — but to ensure that workers were staying within the 10-minute time slots, which has been a problem.