Offer of Lower-Paying Route Deemed to be a Reasonable Accommodation for Jehovah’s Witness Truck Driver
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals FN1 upheld the dismissal of a Florida truck driver’s religious discrimination lawsuit against his former employer.FN2 In Walker v. Indian River Transport Co., a food transportation company assigned a Jehovah’s Witness employee a difficult route that required a flexible schedule and availability to work on Sundays. The driver requested Sundays off to attend religious services, and his employer accommodated the request by pulling him off the difficult route (which required availability to work on Sundays) and offering him alternative but lower-paying routes that did not require Sunday driving. The driver was disappointed with the offer and eventually quit.
In his discrimination lawsuit against the company, the former employee claimed the accommodation was not reasonable. Both the district and appellate courts disagreed, reasoning that the driver’s need for Sundays off meant he lacked the required flexibility of his preferred route, and that the trucking company reasonably accommodated him by offering him routes that would not involve the possibility of mandatory Sunday work.
Under federal law, employers with 15 or more employees “have a statutory obligation to make reasonable accommodations for their employees’ religious observances, short of incurring an undue hardship.”FN3 In fulling this duty, employers do not have to:
- give an employee the accommodation of her choice;
- give an employee a choice among several accommodations; or
- demonstrate that alternative accommodations posed by the employee constitute undue hardship.
The inquiry ends when an employee shows that it offered a reasonable accommodation to the employee, regardless of whether that accommodation was one the employee wanted.
FN1 – The Eleventh Circuit includes Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.
FN2 – Bobby Walker, Jr. v. Indian River Transport Co., (11th Cir., July 27, 2018); http://media.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/unpub/files/201710501.pdf
FN3 – Walker, infra, n.2 at p.10