Saturday, October 22, 2011

Avis Tries Harder, what should Hertz Do?

No matter what Hertz tries, they get sued.
The current story out of Seattle is garnering the headlines, but the story is more complicated than that.   The recent firing of 26 Muslim employees at the Seattle Sea-Tac Airport for refusing to clock out for breaks so they can pray as drawn the ire of many.  Teamsters Local 117 has filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and is filing religious discrimination charges with the EEOC. Hertz had suspended 34 employees in September for failing to punch out during prayers. Eight were reinstated after signing an agreement to clock out by the Thursday deadline. Further, Hertz had provided space at the Sea-Tac location for the employees to pray in private.
In 2007 and again in 2009 Hertz was sued by non-Muslims because at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Hertz was allowing its Muslim employees to take breaks without clocking out in order to pray.  In 2009 Katie Barkley and Shirley Harris, former Hertz employees, sued the company claiming Muslim employees were given as many as three paid, 15-minute prayer breaks each shift while non-Muslim employees were denied equal time off.  It turns out Barkley and Harris lost their jobs when Hertz fired all 120 drivers at Hartsfield and replaced them with contract drivers, according to the lawsuit, which seeks class-action status as well as back pay and other damages.
The EEOC stepped in the Atlanta case and the agreement that was brokered that the employee right to prayer would not be encumbered, but employees would have to clock out.  It was a compromise and I believe Hertz was trying to find middle ground.  One could argue that they should have simply used disciplinary action against employees for not returning to work on time.  True, but when they disciplined or even fired a few Muslim employees they would be back in court again. Perhaps they should try harder, but that would make them Avis.
I have no problem with Hertz’s actions in this case.  They were in a no win situation and it appears that they met the EEOC requirement of making every reasonable effort to meet the religious requirements of its employees.  My biggest gripe with Hertz is why do you think giving me a Chevy Tahoe is an upgrade over the Malibu I requested?

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