Saturday, October 08, 2011

How well will this demand work: "I am a Christian; respect me; and respect Christianity!"

This is an incredible story and since none of us were likely there, we need to look at it a lot closer to see what is happening. To me, as a management consultant who specializes in labor relations, I find it most interesting.

First, note that: A Muslim woman working for Hertz claims she has taken time each day to pray on her shift. Notice it does not say how much time and whether that involved more than the ten-minute paid break time. Nor does it say whether or not the employee actually stopped in the middle of a fare ride/trip in order to pray at the required time.

Last Friday she and 33 of her colleagues who did not clock out to pray were suspended indefinitely. The paper is sure to mention that they are Somalian because that makes a difference. No, it doesn't. It is intended to draw sympathy from us because we know that in years past Somalians suffered and even now the country is experiencing great famine. But it has nothing to do with this labor relations story. The union is doing its best to get them back to work.

Apparently the union is saying management had agreed that they would not have to sign/clock out and back in again to pray. And for some time management didn't demand that. The union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint. And we know how that body (the National Labour Relations Board) has been ruling these days. So why should management even try to defend itself?

Nevertheless, the company says the rules are not new as they try to enforce an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settlement that said workers were required to clock out. (Once again, to my potential management clients out there, let me warn you not to "be nice" (by, in this case, not demanding clocking out after the verdict of the Commission) because it will always come back to haunt you, as it has here.

In fairness, the report did say that that management pointed out that the "Muslim workers who clocked out were not suspended."

Neighborhood union members joined the protest at some point with signs saying, "Respect me, Respect my religion." How about "Respect us, respect the company policies on breaks by staying within the time limits." In an employer-employee relationship, the employer is hiring a person's availability to work -- he is not agreeing to accommodate a person's religion to the nth degree at the whim of the employee. He is only obliged to uphold any laws on the matter. The article from the Seattle Times goes on to point out how much these poor drivers earn and the fact that they get no health benefits, vacation or sick leave. Maybe, and that's the pits for sure, but it's not a reason for allowing them to break the rules or time limits. Unless of course, you're a Teamster, a liberal, and a Democrat. And to boot, if the drivers just happen to be illegal immigrants, that would be okay too.

Finally, the article quotes one of the women as saying one manager told her, "If you guys pray, you go home." I'm not so sure that's correct. Surely, if they didn't clock out they were going home. I bet if they even wanted to pray within a ten-minute break, they legally could do it without signing out and in -- unless the rule was that everyone going on break was to do so. And if that was the case, it was possibly because so many were indeed taking advantage of it and going beyond the ten minute limit.

And then the clincher "sympathy" quote from a Somali Community Services Coalition representative who said "the workers cannot afford to be away from their jobs. "They need to pay rent and buy food for their children." " Well, one way they could have those jobs is to follow the company rules, the Commission settlement, and stop playing the religion card. How far do you think Christians would get in the business world, in North America society in general, in educational institutions, and so on, with a demanding chant that goes like this, "I am a Christian; respect me; and respect Christianity!"?

Local News | Hertz suspends praying Muslim shuttle drivers | Seattle Times Newspaper

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