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Florida Worker’s Wrongful Discharge Case Alleging He Was Fired Because Of Religion Settled By EEOC

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Having represented employment discrimination victims for more than two decades, our Marion County, Florida wrongful discharge lawyers know that employees are frequently punished by employers when their religious beliefs clash with employment requirements. In this article, our Ocala, Florida wrongful discharge attorneys explain how a recent employment discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) illustrates the broad protection employees have against religious discrimination under the federal anti-discrimination laws.

On February 17, 2021, the EEOC issued a press release announcing that it has entered into a Consent Decree to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit against Frito-Lay, Inc. (Frito-Lay). On September 16, 2020, the EEOC filed the religious discrimination lawsuit, U.S. E.E.O.C v. Frito-Lay, Inc., Case No. 9:20-cv-81689, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Before seeking to enforce the federal anti-discrimination laws in federal court, the EEOC initially endeavored to resolve the case through its conciliation program. After determining that its conciliation efforts would not produce an acceptable resolution of the case, the EEOC exercised its statutory right to address the alleged discriminatory employment practices through litigation. In the Consent Decree, which was entered by U.S. District Court Judge Rodolfo A. Ruiz on February 16, 2021, Frito-Lay agreed to pay $50,000 to resolve the religious discrimination lawsuit.

Employees’ Right To Religious Freedom

The EEOC brought the religious discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) on behalf of a former employee of Frito-Lay, Johnny Toussaint (Toussaint). Under Title VII, discrimination against employees on the basis of religion is an unlawful discriminatory employment practice. Title VII defines the term “religion” to include all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief. In protecting employees against religious discrimination, Title VII also requires employers, short of incurring an undue hardship, to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices when they conflict with an employment requirement. When an employer fails or refuses to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices when they clash with an employment requirement, and the employer punishes the employee for failing to comply with the employment requirement, the employer has unlawfully discriminated against the employee on the basis of religion, unless the employer prove that reasonably accommodating the employee’s religious beliefs or practices would have constituted an undue burden.

The EEOC claims that Frito-Lay unlawfully terminated Toussaint, a newly-promoted Route Sales Representative, in violation of Title VII because he could not train for the position on Saturdays due to his religious beliefs.

Florida Employee Claims Wrongful Discharge

Frito-Lay, which is based in Plano, Texas, manufactures and distributes snack products. Toussaint is a practicing Seventh-Day Adventist. In May 2018, Toussaint was hired by Frito-Lay to work as a warehouse employee at its warehouse in West Palm Beach, Florida. In April 2019, Frito-Lay promoted Toussaint to the position of Route Sales Representative. On April 15, 2019, Frito-Lay began training Toussaint for his new position. On April 20, 2019, Toussaint was baptized as a Seventh-Day Adventist. His baptism required him to abstain from secular work and business on Saturdays.

Shortly after his baptism ceremony, Toussaint told a Frito-Lay District Manager that he had been baptized as a Seventh-Day Adventist and that he would be unable to work on Saturdays because of his religious beliefs. On May 5, 2019, Toussaint submitted to Frito-Lay’s Human Resources Department a religious accommodation request form seeking all Saturdays off because of his religious beliefs. In response to Toussaint’s request for a religious accommodation, the District Manager told Toussaint that he was required to work on Saturdays or his employment would be terminated. On May 20, 2019, Frito-Lay denied the religious accommodation request Toussaint submitted to the Human Resources Department.

After rejecting Toussaint’s religious accommodation request, Frito-Lay for the first time ever scheduled Toussaint to train on Saturdays. Frito-Lay scheduled Toussaint to train on Saturdays, according to the EEOC, despite the fact that Toussaint had by that time completed almost five weeks of training for the Route Sales Representative position without ever having to train on Saturday. After Toussaint did not report for training on two consecutive Saturdays in June 2019, Frito-Lay fired Toussaint.

Attorneys Fighting For Employees

The EEOC, which is an administrative agency of the federal government, is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII’s prohibition against religious discrimination. As part of its statutory mission to eradicate workplace discrimination, the EEOC brings lawsuits on behalf of employees victimized by discriminatory employment practices. In a press release issued by the EEOC on February 17, 2021 regarding the case, the Acting Director for the EEOC’s Miami District Office, Bradley A. Anderson, explained that “the failure to accommodate religious practices remains a persistent problem in the workplace.” In commenting on the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District Office, Robert Weisberg, stated that “we commend Frito-Lay for working collaboratively with EEOC to resolve this lawsuit.” “The company’s eagerness to confer with EEOC about agency’s concerns from the lawsuit’s inception and its agreement to provide enhanced training about reasonable accommodation requests,” Mr. Weisberg added, “will benefit its workers and the company.”

Wrongful Discharge Lawyers In Ocala, FL

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida wrongful discharge attorneys have been in the trenches for more than two decades fighting for employee rights. If you have been wrongfully discharged or have questions about your rights as an employee under the federal employment and labor laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida wrongful discharge lawyers. Our employment and labor law attorneys take wrongful discharge cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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