Hertz has rewritten some of its policies to make it clear to employees that Puerto Rico driver’s licenses are valid forms of identification for car rentals, and that Puerto Ricans do not need to provide further proof of ID in the U.S. The move comes after a Puerto Rican man was denied a car rental when Hertz employees demanded to see his passport instead of his license.
The incident occurred on May 10 at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport when Humberto Marchand was denied his Hertz rental vehicle after showing his Puerto Rico driver’s license. The Hertz employee demanded to see Marchand’s passport, which he was not carrying because Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, rendering a passport unnecessary for travel in the U.S.
In response, Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s congressional representative, wrote directly to Hertz CEO Stephen Scherr last week, saying that it was “unacceptable that, more than 100 years after obtaining U.S. citizenship, Puerto Ricans are still discriminated against and treated like second-class American citizens.”
González-Colón also called on Scherr to “consider implementing a company-wide educational campaign that adequately addresses this discrimination that far too many Puerto Ricans have experienced — with your business and others — to make certain it does not repeat itself.”
In a response to González-Colón, Scherr wrote that it was the company’s policy that “a driver’s license from Puerto Rico is, on its own, a valid form of identification to rent a vehicle in the United States and is therefore treated no differently from any U.S. state driver’s license.”
“Since this incident occurred, we have taken multiple steps to ensure that our team is better trained on our identification policies,” Scherr 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.”
In addition to the issues Marchand had with Hertz, a Kenner police officer who responded to the incident also told Marchand to leave. Marchand said that, as he was walking away, he heard the officer say he would call “the border authorities.”
A police spokesman for the Kenner Police Department said that comment wasn’t heard on body camera video from the encounter. It’s unclear, however, when the officer turned the body camera off after responding to the incident.
Marchand has since filed a complaint and that officer is the subject of an internal investigation.
Hertz apologized to Marchand and refunded him for the car rental.
In a similar incident last month, a Puerto Rican family traveling from Los Angeles to Puerto Rico wasn’t allowed onto a Spirit Airlines flight because their toddler did not have his passport, which he did not need. That family ended up paying for a more expensive flight on Jet Blue in order to get to Puerto Rico.
Spirit has apologized to the family, refunded them for the flight and provided them with future travel vouchers, the airline said.
— David Begnaud contributed reporting.