Hertz reiterates to agents Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. CEO responds to PR Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón
Stephen Scheer responded to Colón’s request that the company rewrite its policy and said the company had apologized to Humberto Marchand and provided a refund.
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The Hertz car rental company has apologized and refunded Humberto Marchand, a Puerto Rican native who was denied a rental vehicle with the agency on May 10 at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport after showing his Puerto Rico driver's license.
A Hertz employee demanded to see Marchand's passport that was not in his possession as it was a domestic flight and Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens — a fact the company said they’d remind their employees of, according to a letter from CEO Stephen Scheer.
Scheer responded to Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner, after writing directly to the Hertz CEO last week in the aftermath of the incident. She denounced the “second-class treatment” of Puerto Ricans in the U.S., and asked that the company institute a companywide educational program.
"It is unacceptable that, more than 100 years after having obtained U.S. citizenship, Puerto Ricans are still being discriminated against and treated like second-class American citizens," she wrote.
In Scheer’s response to González-Colón on Wednesday, May 24, he said the company has rewritten its company policy to prevent a similar action taking place in the future, apologized to Marchand and refunded him.
“Our field personnel work hard to serve millions of customers every year, and we know that we won't always get it right,” he said. “In this case, we did not get it right. "We will strive to make sure that Mr. Marchand's experience is not repeated.”
The updated policy will be communicated to employees and agents at its rental locations and call centers. The topic will also be added to in-person training sessions.
“Since this incident occurred, we have taken multiple steps to ensure that our team is better trained on our identification policies,” he wrote. “This includes rewriting a policy to be even more clear about the status of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, disseminating written and verbal communications from Hertz senior leadership to our field and call-center teams, and adding this topic to in-person field huddles.”
Along with the denial of the rental car, Marchand had the police called on him and was asked to leave the premises.
In video footage captured by Marchand, he can be heard asking an employee: "Did you know that my driver's license in Puerto Rico is as valid as a Louisiana driver's license?"
The agent called the police before telling Marchand that he was behaving illegally.
Bodycam footage from a police officer in Kenner, Louisiana responding to the incident was captured saying: “If they say you need a passport and you don't have one, and they say you need a passport to rent a car, what is your problem?"
Marchand was ultimately asked to leave.
The Kennel Police Department has also apologized for its officer’s ignorance.
"I don't think that's the way we want to be portrayed, and he shouldn't have been spoken to in that manner," Police Chief Keith Conley told local TV station WVUE.
Conley also said that an internal affairs investigation has been launched into the officer’s conduct, who according to Conley, was at the scene to respond to a disturbance call.
In a statement, Kenner Police said the officer was only there to “mitigate the disagreement” between the two parties.
“By nature, we don’t get involved in civil matters. We don’t interpret policies. We don’t get involved in that stuff,” Conley said.