Food Lion faces religious discrimination lawsuit

Frank S. Clowney III

California shoppers who have heard of Food Lion might find it interesting that the supermarket chain faces a religious discrimination lawsuit in North Carolina, where the company was founded. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the complaint on Aug. 20 after a Jehovah’s Witness was allegedly fired for not being able to work on certain days.

The EEOC filing says that the man was hired at the company’s Winston-Salem location on June 6, 2011, as a meat cutter. As an elder and minister of his religion, the man requested that he not be scheduled for Sundays or Thursday evenings because he is required to attend church for services and meetings. The manager of the store agreed, but then the meat cutter was moved to a store in Kernersville. He was fired on June 27, 2011, after the manager of that store told him that he could not stay in his position if he didn’t come to work on Sundays.

The EEOC tried to come to an agreement with Food Lion over the issue before it filed the lawsuit, but the agency was unsuccessful. It is seeking compensatory damages, injunctive relief and back pay. The filing also seeks the recovery of existing and expected pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. The regional attorney for the agency says that no one should be forced to choose between his job and his religious beliefs.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from being discriminated against based on their religion, color, sex, race or national origin. In regard to religion, an employer has to make reasonable accommodations for its employees’ religious beliefs , unless doing so causes undue hardship to the employer’s business operations. Workers who feel that they have been discriminated against because of their religious beliefs may wish to speak with an employment law attorney in order to determine what remedies may be available.

Source: Salisbury Post, “EEOC sues Food Lion for religious discrimination“, August 20, 2014