ROCHESTER, Minn. (WCCO) — Three Rochester women say they were fired as drivers for members of the Saudi Royal Family visiting the Mayo Clinic, because of Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving.

The women say the companies that hired them told them the Saudi Arabian visitors did not want women drivers.

Gretchen Cooper was one of the drivers. She said they are using the firing as a way to raise awareness of the situation in Saudi Arabia.

“As an American woman, I take my freedom and rights for granted. I never had considered that I could be wrongly terminated merely for being a woman,” she said.

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that enforces a legal ban on woman driving.

The non-profit Gender Justice is representing the three women. Co-founder Lisa Stratton said they are committed to enforcing the Rochester women’s right to gender equality in the workplace under state and federal laws.

Press Conference With Gender Justice On Women Being Fired

But, according to Stratton, they also believe in working across borders, as partners with other advocates fighting for gender equality.

Gender Justice is holding a “Drive-In” to support Saudi Arabian women’s rights this Friday. During the event, they will hand out green ribbons for participant’s cars as well as information about the Rochester women’s connection to the current efforts to end the driving ban in Saudi Arabia.

Comments (86)
  1. Dawn says:

    Yet it was okay for female members of the U.S. Army to be allowed to defend Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War.

    Interesting double standards.

    1. PMH49 says:

      I think if you asked a female that was in SA they would tell you they had rules that had to be followed. I am also sure most of them would have just as soon fragged the royal family as serve there, but that was the job and they did it. I would prefer we told the royal family to ‘put on their big boy pants and deal with it’, but my opinion does not matter much to diplomats.

      1. Former 88M says:

        As a female that was in SA from beginning to end, Yes, there were rules to be followed both for our protection and the protection of the local populace. We didn’t necessarily like the rules, but as responsible adult soldiers, we respected the differences in culture and religion to the best of our ability without compromising combat readiness.
        As someone who has “been there done that” I would much prefer to deal with the local populace in that country – the ones that were respectful in their curiosity and went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and teach us about their culture than deal with the phobic, ill informed, people in this country who don’t take the time to learn about other cultures before they pass judgement upon them.
        I drove a fuel tanker and various other vehicles the whole time I was there and NOT ONCE was I ever given any trouble about it. It was all about respect – they respected us for doing our jobs and we respected their right to their laws and religion without interference from either side.

        1. ba4321 says:

          Yes, you were “just following orders.”

        2. markH says:

          I like to do my own thinking and would never respect anyone’s religion or culture if it meant it degraded me, repressed me, or subjected me to a lower position in a society. By all means, submit yourself to someone’s unseen, unproven, unfalsifiable religious ideas if you wish, but you have no right to suggest that others must follow your slavish injunction to conform to a misogynistic myth. Peace.

      2. Unbelievable says:

        Isn’t this sad? When we go to other countries, we are expected to follow their rules and be sensitive to their cultures, but when foreigners come here, we are expected to change our ways so we don’t offend them. Enough Already!! We need to take care of each other here in the US, we are becoming a worldwide joke.

    2. Todd W. Olson says:

      Battle of Khafji, 29 January 1991. First Gulf War. Look it up.

      1. Your King says:

        Should have had the girl answer that!

    3. Iconoclast says:


  2. Wants to know says:

    “The women say the companies that hired them told them the Saudi Arabian visitors did not want women drivers.” Then why were they hired? Also, didn’t tyhe companies have any male drivers? What’s the full story?

    1. ray says:

      I smell a community organizer somewhere here.

  3. Mark Lavalla says:

    Complaining will only make gas prices higher

  4. Seriously says:

    Do you have any idea how much money the Saudi Royal family brings to Mayo Clinic and the surrounding community every year? If they don’t want female drivers so be it.

    1. Ferris Lind says:

      Well if you think thats alright , go live over there

      1. Get a life says:

        Seriously, seriously you are an idiot. When wealthy American women go to Saudi Arabia, do they get to make the rules?? NO!!!!! Why are we supposed to have respect for other cultures when they have zero for ours?

    2. markH says:

      So what you’re saying is that civil liberties can be thrown out if the price is high enough to warrant misogyny? Now, if I told you that there is some fringe religion out there that just donated a large sum of money to the Mayo Clinic, but just happened to proclaim as official doctrine that women are the exclusive property of men and have little or no say in the sexual lives or freedom to travel freely without the permission of a man, what would you say to that? Incidentally, this just happens to be Islam’s position toward women. Now, stop rationalizing and justifying oppressive and harmful religious ideas. Peace.

  5. Champagne says:

    Money talks while the rest of us get fired!!

  6. Rico Suave says:

    Are they sure they were women? It’s hard to tell these days. The times is confusing.

  7. Ruth says:

    It is the law IN in Saudi Arabia that women cannot drive. If Saudis don’t want women drivers, abide by their wishes. There are plenty of other people and places you can drive in this state, country and world and not offend anyone.

    1. Gary Lee says:

      There are plenty of other hospitals in the world to which members of the Saudi royal family can go for care and not impose their beliefs on anyone. They seem to prefer the sort of care they get here, which is available in part because of the culture here. They should not be able to cherry pick which parts of America they want and which parts they will forgo. Of course, that is unless they own enough real estate in the US (and they do) to equal a small country somewhere else. Then they seem to be able to tell our laws to take a hike when they are visiting. Since the prohibition on women driving in Saudi Arabia is a part of the whole Sharia law thing, maybe those states prohibiting Sharia law being enacted in their staes are not as crazy as we thought. Rochester seems willing to accept Sharia if it keeps the money coming in.

    2. George says:

      when did it become the people of the united state to alway back down. If they do not want a women driver – then stay home. We have feedoms here that our men and women have died to keep. I think the taxi company is wrong to have fired the women.

      1. Pearl says:

        Thank you George. When we are in their country we do as they want. Why do we also do what they want in our country? It seems to be the way of living in America these days. What are we coming to?

    3. Nica says:

      Ruth – they are in OUR country. They should abide by our laws that say you cannot discriminate in the work place based upon gender. You are a woman and you seriously are ok with someone from another country coming and imposing their horrible treatment of women on our women?

      1. ray says:

        Well if I call a cab and it shows up with a one eyed drunken sailor driving I can refuse the ride. In fact if I don’t want a woman driving me I cqn refuse the ride and take my business elsewhere. It is my right as a customer to either accept or refuse any service offered by a merchant. Thats the difference between here and there,

  8. Victim Du Jour says:

    It’s not the Saudi’s fault at all, the limo company hired the women.

    People have the right to request male drivers.

    The Saudis might like telling “How many women does it take to change a lightbulb” jokes while they are traveling.

    1. Todd W. Olson says:

      Apparently you don’t think the 14th Amendment applies to employment law, which is incongruous with your usual approach to virtually every other legal matter. Interestingly, it might actually be applicable in this instance. Pity for you, really.

      1. Victim Du Jour says:

        1st amendment says “Religious Freedom” too, so it’s not the Saudis problem. And it’s really none of your business what Saudis request.

        Billionaires may be requesting males too, so they don’t have to worry about the old “Someone tried to touch my pooter” get rich scheme.

        It’s too bad the limo company didn’t find other driving jobs for these women instead.

  9. Deanna says:

    Actually, I wouldn’t want a woman driver either, though I wouldn’t complain if one was assigned to drive me around. I also don’t particularly like women supervisors or doctors either. I’m glad I have the choice to choose men rather than women.

  10. mariepearle says:

    It is absolutely ridiculous in this day and age to fire someone in America for being female.

    They should have a legal case.

  11. Victim Du Jour says:

    This isn’t any different than someone requesting a male or female healthcare provider for themselves or a Parent. I can bet the Dixie Chicks or many different celebs request genders to fill certain positions for when they are touring.

    It really isn’t anyone business at all.

    1. CJ says:

      The women were fired, instead of being requested or not requested. Big difference there.

    2. Victim Ala Mode says:

      The Dixie Chicks are still touring? Where? Showing your age there Victim! There is a difference between requesting and get fired. If they only cater to the Saudis, why did they hire the women in the first place?

  12. Don says:

    There’s something disingenuous about a bunch of white, privileged women “advocating” for the rights of the “poor, oppressed” Saudis. Change comes from within a society, not outside. How about we focus on gender discrimination in OUR country and get a female president elected or finally get equal pay for equal work.

    And why are these people going after the Saudis when it was the taxi company that fired the women? Seems like a frivolous lawsuit to get some big bucks from people in high places.

    1. Jill Gaulding says:

      Gender Justice agrees that change comes from within a society, not outside — you’re right about that! That’s why we represent the Rochester women in their dispute here in Minnesota, and why we applaud and support the Saudi women’s efforts to eliminate the driving ban in Saudi Arabia.

      If you are interested in “gender discrimination in OUR country,” and “equal pay for equal work,” perhaps you would like to come volunteer for us? Those are exactly the issues we focus on.

      1. Victim Du Jour says:

        The biggest reason why women make less is because they tend to take easy Monday-Friday cubical worker jobs and are less likely to work overtime.

        That’s one reason why you don’t see women working for Roto-rooter or a porto-potty service.

        It has nothing to do with discimination.

        1. woman working OT says:

          Women are less likely to work overtime??? Try telling that to the hundreds of female nurses working at the Mayo Clinic who work hundreds of hours of OT taking care of patients! BTW, we do so REGARDLESS of how patients discriminate or stereotype us. This includes the Saudi Royal family, who happen to be EXTREMELY respectful and thankful to female care givers. It also includes sexist Americans who think women “take easy Monday-Friday cubical worker jobs and are less likely to work overtime.” Give me Saudi royalty any day over Americans who don’t discriminate because of culture, but because of ignorance (read: limo company that DIDN’T bother to inquire about client preference before hiring!)

          1. Victim Du Jour says:

            Most women are not in the medical field for one thing, my post is from John Stossel who did a story about gender pay, and he interviewed a National Organization of Women co-founder who is studying gender pay differences.

            Women tend to avoid dirty, hazardous, shift work and outdoor work. Women take more time off for being awarded custody of Children (and the monthly pooter issue)

            The only way you can say women make less than men in medical is to compare a female doctor who has M-F daytime hours to an ER doctor who works longer hours and overnights.

            Men also take jobs with greater financial risks like construction work being prone to layoffs.

            I know you are trying to cash in on a politically convenient inferiority complex, but your old school 80’s gear doesn’t work on the Internet.

            1. Woman working OT says:

              Wow, unbelievable. I’m curious, whose agenda are you pushing?? No where did I address gender pay. I was responding to comments on women and overtime. You take that as an invitation to rant (rather incoherently) about time off, children, and unbelievably, menses! You finish by stating I have an “inferiority complex” and “80’s gear”? Pretty clear you are out of your league when someone mounts an intellegent arguement. The last gasp of a dying arguement? – Every sexist’s old stand bye – the bringing up of what you disgustingly call “the monthly pooter issue”. The favorite arguement of the adolescent boy. Congrats – you hit an all time low.

              1. Kaarimu says:

                @ Woman working OT – Thanks for sticking it to the “adolescent boy”!

                @ Victim Du Jour – “Its better to shut up and look like a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”!

                1. Victim du jour says:

                  “Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.” -Rushdie

              2. Les Johnson says:

                The last gasp of a dying arguement? – Every sexist’s old stand bye – the bringing up of what you disgustingly call “the monthly pooter issue”.

                I’m going to go ahead and call that one legitimate. Are you saying it isn’t? Women’s behavior and emotional state are like a lightswitch.

                1. Victim Du Jour says:

                  I didn’t realize someone is getting the best of me? Boy I wish they had a delete button, I sure am over my head!

            2. ReadingIsFundamental says:

              Nursing has been found to be the most hazardous job, stacked up against your idea of danger like plumbing and cable installation.

              Between people attacking you, bodily fluids, overwork fatigue related accidents and communicable infections.

              So, by your logic – you’re completely ignorant. Have a nice life.

              1. Mr D says:

                Yeah it’s hazardous for the patient.

              2. See BS says:

                I am not playing down Nurses, I am saying most women are not in the medical field.

                Women dominate Nursing careers, but on a national level, most women are not Nurses or Nursing assistants.

        2. Darla says:

          Lots of cubical jobs call for smarts equal to your blue collar male jobs…AND let’s not forget women pretty much have to keep the household going in lotsa ways…pick up kids… for food, cook the meal, clean up, etc. etc. Men just go home and “eat”.

          1. Victim du jour says:

            Blue Collar workers are prone to falling off ladders, high voltage electrical shocks, getting a third degree burn, or someone running over a foot.

            Cubical workers get a kiss on a papercut boo boo from their guy mowing the lawn, when they pull up in the driveway with a trunk full of groceries.

            (men know how to cook and clean too)

        3. Nica says:

          I seriously hope you are not in a position to be raising a female child, or any child for that matter.

          1. See BS says:

            Paranoid Schizophrenia is pothead baby boomer socialism.

        4. Diana says:

          I work 89 hours a week, buddy! 29 y/o female. I take care of disabled adults. It is not easy!

  13. Kathleen says:

    For all you ignoramuses, how is this any different than if rich Germans came in and said they refuse to do business with Jewish people, so a particular business fired all it’s Jewish people. Or if some rich white supremicist won’t do business with black people, so the company fires all it’s black people. IT’S ILLEGAL YOU IDIOTS. It is NOT a choice that this employer can make just to appease people with money. If it’s allowed to happen to women, then it can happen to anyone for any reason. Whether you agree with misogynists or not, it is against the law to discriminate.

    1. Victim Du Jour says:

      This has nothing to do with the Saudis, the Government can’t force consumers to use shuttle services with women drivers.

      Too bad there is nothing in the constitution that says the government has the authority over how “Consumers” spend their money.

    2. Mary says:

      I agree with you and you gave some good analogies. But here’s the issue with this pathetic event: If Germans came in and said they refuse to do business with Jewish people and the business fired all Jewish people, this wouldn’t turn into a “let’s hold a protest against Germany because they are all anti-Semites” campaign. The business is at fault here. The Germans, Saudis, whites, whoever has first amemdment protection to freedom of expression. They can be as narrow-minded as they want to be, that is their right and you can’t get sued in this country for holding racist or sexist opinions. So I don’t see what this has to do with Saudis. It’s about the business not following the law.

    3. nonracist german says:

      Hey Kathleen – welcome to the 21st Century – Germans are no more likely to be antisemitic than any other nationality. A neo-nazi certainly would be, but not an entire country. Being German doesn’t make a person racist!

  14. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

    A little off-topic, but has anybody seen a female driver make it out of her driveway or a parking lot WITHOUT being on her phone or texting?

    1. Drunken Dissed Orderly says:

      It’s like they plan out ahead of time, how they’re going to spend their drive. It won’t be concentrating on the road, no. It will be making one phone call after another or one text after another until she gets in the house. Y’all EVER stop talking? I mean daaaaaang, Gina!

    2. Sue Terry says:

      yeah I have since I don’t text or talk on my phone while driving

  15. Reasonable says:

    Article not clear, were they dismissed from driving the Saudis but remain employed with the driving company? If so, they weren’t fired, just removed from that particular assignment. You’d think in our PC climate that offering the visitors their preferred driver would be A-OK?

  16. wally says:

    The Saudis expect all people who visit their country to follow their rules. Then they come here and expect people to follow their rules.

    ‘taint right.

    1. OOICU812 says:


  17. chinwhiskers says:

    Oh back off. Everybody wants to be a victim. We let people choose steak or fish with chocolate or vanilla ice cream for dessert, then make a big issue of somebody’s expressed preference for a driver., Limo company should avoid offending visitors, should have done its homework on visitors’ culture. Let the lady drivers drive somebody else.

    1. Les Johnson says:

      Ever consider maybe the Saudis should have done their homework? They’re the ones coming to our country for our services.

      When in Rome??

  18. Saudi's Suck says:

    They need to get a grip! This is the US. If they dont want women drivers….let them get medical help back in their own dirt ridden sand pit…..

  19. Murph says:

    Hey the ladies are great drivers!.They drive me crazy.But that’s kinda a short drive! After eight years of Bush and now the Party of No and it’s revolting vaudeville freak show.Any lady willing to drive me and my stuff to a permanent Canadian vacation would be a welcome sight!

  20. Julie says:

    They didn’t have to fire the women.
    They could have just given them seperate driving assignments.

    Had they assigned them to something else, this would have been a non-issue.
    Seeing that they fired them though, it’s an issue.
    Firing them because of gender suggests it was by the directive of the client.
    Perhaps the saudi’s said they would take their business elsewhere, but that point is moot. However, the saudi’s aren’t to blame, it is the American company in America that decided to try to look good in front of their sharia loving client.

    This is America where women drive as freely as men do.
    Sharia Law is not applicable within the borders of America.

    This could be a huge lawsuit indeed.
    The Saudi’s unfortunately probably can’t be sued but the companies based in America who fired these women most likely can be. Civilly and maybe under Title 7 for discrimination.

  21. See BS says:

    I know Hollywood and famous musicians are known to request male or female drivers.

    Saudis visitors are just being singled out for a political agenda.

  22. Debby says:

    I think those Saudi’s need to realize they are in OUR country and need to follow OUR rules! If we are visitors in their country, we are expected to follow their rules and customs. Time for America to stand up to idiots like these that come here expecting their customs to be followed!
    Stay over there and get your medical aid!

    1. See BS says:

      There are no rules that say consumers have to use a taxi or limo service with female drivers.

      What are you smoking?

  23. tom says:

    being familiar with the rochester situation over the past 20 years, it is clear that if the women would have been tall blond and short skirts there would have been no problem. They generally tell the hotels they want these specifications for waitressesTHIS IS JUST PLAIN WRONG!!!!!!!!

  24. just an Average Driver says:

    Geez, what is this, a remake of Dumb and Dumber.

    .”The women say the companies that hired them told them the Saudi Arabian visitors did not want women drivers.”’

    Wouldn’t that be a pretty good indication that either the Companies shouldn’t have sent the women out on that assignment, or that the women should have turned down the assignment knowing that there would be problems?

    This has nothing at all to do with them being women, or with the customers being Saudi’s.

    The (limo) Companies most likely knew in advance that the customer (Saudi’s) didn’t want women drivers. Yet the Companies sent the women on the assignment.

    The women also most likely knew that the customer (Saudi’s) did not want women drivers. Yet they still took the assignment.

    It sounds like the (limo) Companies need new Dispatchers that knows how to foresee problems like this, and how to come up with a solution to it.

  25. RetroDude says:

    Whine, whine, whine. Get over it! It’s still a free country (for now). Go work for a different company.

  26. Tom says:

    show them some leg that would work

  27. Daryl says:

    Maybe the Saudis should pay the women to not work. No I didn’t say US government, but they are elibible.

  28. CN says:

    The artticle didn’t say that the women ever actually drove anyone from Saudi Arabia. The article also says ‘companies’ meaning more than one. so how did these women get together and figure out they were all fire for the same reason???

  29. Ali says:

    This is stupid. I am guessing we don’t know the entire story here. Did they actually get fired from the company they work for or are they just unable to drive for the Saudi Royal family when they come to town? I’m assumnig the Saudi Royal family isn’t here 100% of the year therefore not possibly their only customer base so there are plenty of other jobs to send these women on? Why is this an issue? We all know they spend a lot of money here at the Mayo, we all know that is a good thing, we all know a few concessions such as they get to pick who is driving them is not something to cry about. People make requests for who is driving them more often than the complainers here would have you believe.

    1. See BS says:

      It’s my guess the female drivers are not full time employees, and the limo company is a small business. So the female workers have no case.

      This is an example of how the media bullies people around with their political beliefs.

  30. Mr D says:

    Maybe they just wanted the superior drivers.

  31. Boss says:

    The person who signs the pay check can hire or fire whoever he/she wants to.

  32. Your King! says:

    Sorry people, driving is NOT a RIGHT here in America either!

  33. Russ says:

    There it is again,American people trying to stick their noses in other counties business. Other countries have a right to enact their laws as we do. No wonder we get into half the problems with other nations. Who elected the U.S. to be babysitters of the world? We need to fix our messed up home before we even THINK about telling others how to run theirs.

  34. Russ says:

    But in support of our country,being our women do have the right to drive, they should have been told to either accept the drivers or hop on a bus.

  35. Confusious says:

    Here is an (light bulb shines) Rent a flippin car when your in town. That way you know you will have a “male” driver…..DUH

  36. rufus mcdude says:

    if 6,000,000 people were killed, where are all the mass graves? ain’t got no graves

  37. FifthGeneration says:

    This is ABSURD! When Americans visit Saudi Arabia we are expected and required to adapt to their Laws and customs, even when it make us uncomfortable. Why can they not do us the same courtesy? This should not have been allowed.

  38. Nick says:

    If females were banned from driving here in MN i would not have $160,000 in hospital bills nor would i have sever injuries to my right hand or my left leg.

  39. YepISaidIt says:

    I would have said to the visitors, “You’re in America, mother f*****” and let the women drive.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.