- Frito-Lay violated federal law when it declined to grant an employee Saturdays off as a religious accommodation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed Sept. 17 (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Frito-Lay, Inc., No. 9:20-cv-81689 (S.D. Fla., Sept. 17, 2020)).
- A newly promoted sales representative said his employment was terminated after he informed the employer that he could not train for the position on Saturdays because of his religious beliefs as a Seventh Day Adventist. In its complaint, the EEOC alleged that a district manager told the worker he would be fired if he didn’t train on the weekend. He requested a religious accommodation, EEOC said, but Frito-Lay allegedly denied the request and fired him after he missed two Saturday training sessions.
- The federal agency asked for compensatory and punitive damages, among other things. When asked for comment, a Frito-Lay spokesperson said via email that "Frito-Lay is unable to comment on pending litigation."
Federal law requires that employers reasonably accommodate a worker’s sincerely held religious beliefs unless doing so poses an undue hardship for the employer, the EEOC has noted in a guidance on religious discrimination. "An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work," according to the agency.
Employers have successfully defended religious accommodation request denials by showing that any effective accommodation would pose an undue hardship. Walmart, for example, prevailed in a case where a manager, who like the worker in the Frito-Lay lawsuit, requested Saturdays off because of his religious beliefs. The nationwide retailer proved that the request would leave the store without a manager on Saturdays. In another lawsuit , the 11th Circuit determined that a nuclear power plant worker was not entitled to Saturdays off as a religious accommodation because the employer showed that such as a change would have, among other things, caused a change in scheduling and assignment procedures for the demanding job and risked its staffing contract with the power plant.
Many accommodations, however, may be reasonable. Common accommodations include breaks that permit daily prayers at prescribed times or an employee who needs a schedule change to attend church services, according to the federal agency.
However, the law doesn't require that an employer grant a worker's preferred accommodation. For example, an employer's offer to reassign a truck driver to a less-desirable route because he requested a schedule change to accommodate his religious beliefs was acceptable, according to a 2018 ruling from the 11th Circuit. And an employee who was granted an exemption from mandatory overtime altogether rather being rescheduled for additional hours received an appropriate religious accommodation, the 10th Circuit held that year.
Compliance training is a good idea, experts previously told HR Dive, because employers are expected to engage in an interactive, good-faith process to determine worker accommodations. They recommend that HR ensure that managers are trained to handle requests and to listen for clues that suggest a need for accommodation even if there is no formal request.