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Snack-Food Company Agrees to Accommodate Sabbath-keeping Employees

Snack-Food Company Agrees to Accommodate Sabbath-keeping Employees

In a number of his speeches and sermons, the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

A Sabbath-keeper in West Palm Beach, Florida, Jhonny Toussaint, recently saw justice bend in his direction. A U.S. government news release states: “Frito-Lay, Inc., a Plano, Texas-based subsidiary of PepsiCo that manufactures and distributes snack foods, has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).”

The report says that “Frito-Lay violated federal law when it fired a newly promoted route sales representative in the West Palm Beach area because he could not train for the position on Saturdays due to his religious beliefs. 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.”

The federal law being referred to is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which “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.”


Damages Awarded

According to an article on an attorney website, Toussaint had been employed at Frito-Lay since May 2018. He was promoted nearly a year later and started training for his new position on April 15, 2019. Five days later, he was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Upon disclosing his new Sabbath observance to one of the company’s district managers, Toussaint was told “that he was required to train on Saturdays or he would be fired.” On May 5 of that same year, he followed procedure by requesting “a religious accommodation,” which was subsequently rejected.

Toussaint then received his training schedule for the next month, which, for the first time, included “two consecutive Saturdays.” When those dates arrived, he decided to keep the Sabbath according to his own conviction and, as a result, was fired.

The EEOC then took up the case, “[contending] that Frito-Lay’s policy of requiring Route Sales Representatives to train on Saturdays regardless of their religious beliefs effectively precludes all individuals of certain religious faith from ever holding a high-level sales management position with the company.”

According to a news report at Law.com, a pretrial settlement gave Toussaint “$8,242.18 in back pay and $41,757.82 in compensatory damages.” Frito-Lay will also educate its managers on how to accommodate the religious practices of their employees in compliance with Title VII. What’s more, the company will be in close and clear communication with the EEOC to ensure the completion of these tasks.

“We commend Frito-Lay for working collaboratively with EEOC to resolve this lawsuit,” Robert Weisberg, the EEOC regional attorney, said in the statement.


Why This Matters … for Everyone

Whether or not you observe the Bible Sabbath, this case matters.

Here’s why: Protecting the rights of religious believers helps to assure religious freedom for everyone. Indeed, religious freedom is a backbone of the nation. The United States of America was founded on the principle of “liberty and justice for all,” as our Pledge of Allegiance states, to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” as the Preamble to the Constitution states. 

And the Bill of Rights—the set of the first ten amendments to our constitution—declares in its First Amendment that “Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. Your right to practice your faith according to the dictates of your conscience is guaranteed by the laws of this country. These laws are what make America.

Toussaint has a right, by virtue of being an American, to have his religious needs accommodated—and that means every other American does too.

Second, the case for religious liberty is not a bad harbinger for corporate America. In fact, it is just the opposite. Good workers are always in demand. Like all companies, Frito-Lay promoted Toussaint because of his performance. But because Frito-Lay neglected to protect their employees’ right to worship, they lost what was shaping up to be a bright, new talent. Indeed, after being fired, Toussaint ended up finding another job where his beliefs were accommodated. It is to their own benefit that companies respect their workers’ religious rights.

Interestingly enough, did you know that God works in a similar way? He gives to each one of us the free choice of whom to worship: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). He does not demand servitude from any of us. He desires us to make the choice knowingly and willingly. In fact, God’s government is the only system that truly does provide “liberty and justice for all.” James 1:25 explains, “He who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

And God has given us the Sabbath as a gift. Through it, we have the opportunity to experience some of the special joy God has in store for us when we do choose Him.

Why is the Bible Sabbath so important to begin with? Our free booklet Why God Said Remember offers a useful introduction to the topic. And Should Christians Keep the Sabbath? is the subject of an insightful conversation between Pastor Doug Batchelor and Pastor Steve Gregg. You’ll be able to hear both sides of the issue—and decide the question for yourself!

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