EEOC Files Religious Discrimination Lawsuit On Behalf of an Employee in West Palm Beach, FL
On September 17th, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a lawsuit against Frito-Lay, the multinational snack food giant. The employment law claim is based on allegations that the company engaged in unlawful religious discrimination at its West Palm Beach distribution center. Below, our South Florida employment law team explains the allegations and provides a brief overview of the relevant federal law.
Religious Discrimination Claim: Failure to Offer Reasonable Accommodation
Headquartered in Plano, Texas, Frito-Lay is a subsidiary of the Pepsi Corporation. The company operates many different warehouses and distribution centers throughout the country, including in West Palm Beach. In this case, the EEOC filed a workplace discrimination lawsuit on behalf of a former employee of the company who had recently been promoted to a position as a sales representative.
The employee in question is a practicing Seventh-day Adventist. In accordance with the requirements of his sincerely held religious beliefs, he informed his employer that he would not be able to train on Saturdays. Notably, the sales representative position typically requires several weeks worth of Saturday training. Despite receiving his request for religious accommodation, the employer scheduled him for a Saturday shift anyway. After he missed two straight Saturday shifts, the West Palm Beach employee was fired.
Civil Rights Act: Employers Have a Duty to Accommodate Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs
The EEOC alleges that Frito-Lay violated its responsibilities under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That statute prohibits religious discrimination and requires employers to make a good faith effort to provide a reasonable accommodation for a religious employee. Many employers confuse this key point: Treating all workers exactly the same is not necessarily a valid defense to a religious discrimination lawsuit. In many cases, the law requires more than that. Covered employers must make a real attempt to accommodate the religious practices of an employee.
To be clear, there are limitations to an employer’s duties under federal law. Companies and organizations covered by the Civil Rights Act are only required to accommodate a sincerely held religious belief if doing so would not pose undue hardship. What constitutes an undue hardship can be a matter of debate. Broadly defined, an undue hardship is an action that requires significant difficulty or expense. It is ultimately a case-by-case issue. As an example, a proposed religious accommodation that poses an undue hardship on a small business might not pose such a burden for a large company. The unique circumstances of the case always matter.
Call Our West Palm Beach, FL Workplace Discrimination for Immediate Help
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our West Palm Beach employment law attorneys are skilled and reliable representatives for our clients. We have the knowledge and experience to handle complex religious discrimination claims. Call us now for a fully private, no commitment employment consultation. We serve communities throughout all of Southeast Florida, including in West Palm Beach, Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, Riviera Beach, Juno Beach, and Fort Lauderdale.