Former Workers Sue Hertz, Claiming Discrimination Against Minn. Muslims
By: Stephen Tellier
Updated: 01/12/2015 10:22 PM
Created: 01/12/2015 8:00 PM KSTP.com
They say they were mocked, harassed, demeaned, singled out, and then forced out or fired, all because of their nationality and religion.
Six Muslim Minnesotans from East Africa filed a class action lawsuit against Hertz last month, accusing the rental car company of widespread discrimination at its Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport location.
The former Hertz employees say they were happy at Hertz until management changes were made in 2007. They contend that for three years after that, they were subjected to countless instances of discrimination large and small. According to the lawsuit, the keeping of two refrigerators—one in which Muslims from Somalia and Ethiopia were allowed to put their food, and one where they weren’t—is just one of many examples.
“I try my best and I do everything. I’m one of the best employees,” said Nadif Ketibe, who worked at Hertz for six years.
“I know I’ve been disrespected and I’ve been abused,” Ketibe added.
But he said he didn’t speak up during his time at Hertz because he feared losing his job.
Ketibe is one of six former employees suing Hertz over their treatment at the airport location.
The lawsuit states East African Muslims, “… were regularly harassed for praying … treated disrespectfully, subjected to discriminatory and demeaning statements … mocked (and) disciplined more severely.”
“Insulting our religion, our books, our races and everything,” Ketibe said.
The lawsuit also quotes various Hertz employees as saying, “If you pray continuously you will make us lose money and no Muslims will be hired,” “Find people who are not Muslim so we can hire them,” “Your religion is lying. The Quran is lying. You’re a liar,” and, “This guy’s hatred of Americans is just below the surface.”
The former workers say the last straw was the introduction of a discriminatory prayer policy.
“We refused to sign that, and after that, we got fired,” Ketibe said.
One of their attorneys says several Muslim workers were forced out or fired between 2007 and 2010.
“The way I lost the job – it was unfair, it was discrimination,” said Abdirashid Mohammed, who worked at Hertz for ten years.
For Mohammed, the loss of a job also meant the loss of health insurance for his three children.
“Later on, I lost all of them, and…” Mohammed said, before being overcome with emotion.
“In Minnesota, we value hard work and we value diversity, and I think Hertz’s actions – they ignored both of those two values,” said Darren Sharp, one of the attorneys representing the former workers.
Ketibe feels he was forced to choose between his job and his religion. He now says that’s a choice no one should have to make.
“Everyone’s life has to be respected. I don’t care (if you’re) white, black, African, American – everyone’s life has to be respected,” Ketibe said.
Hertz provided 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS with a statement: “We do not comment on pending litigation, but are confident that Hertz will prevail when all of the facts are disclosed in the course of this lawsuit.”