WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Frito-Lay, Inc., a Plano, Texas-based subsidiary of PepsiCo that manufactures and distributes snack foods, violated federal law when it fired a newly promoted route sales representative because he could not train for the position on Saturdays due to his religious beliefs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a West Palm Beach Frito-Lay warehouse employee applied for and received a promotion to route sales representative. The employee completed approximately five weeks of training without having to train on Saturdays. However, despite learning he could not work on Saturdays because of his Seventh-day Adventist religious beliefs, Frito-Lay scheduled him to train on Saturdays and terminated him after he failed to report to training on two consecutive Saturdays.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs unless it would pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, West Palm Beach Division (EEOC v. Frito-Lay, Inc., Civil Action No. 9:20-cv-81689), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.
“An employer is obligated to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs, for example, by providing a schedule change, when it would cause no undue hardship,” said EEOC regional attorney Robert Weisberg. “For an employer to only schedule the worker to work on Saturdays when it knows he cannot due to his religious beliefs violates federal law.”
Bradley A. Anderson, acting district director for the Miami District Office, added, “Religious freedom is at the very heart of this country, and it’s vital to protect that right in the workplace. This lawsuit demonstrates that EEOC stands ready to protect employees against discrimination based on their religion.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. The Miami District Office’s jurisdiction includes Florida, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.