Bobby Walker, Jr. was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and is still a believer today. That wasn’t a problem when he was hired as a truck driver for a Florida company called Indian River Transport Co. His schedule gave him Sundays off, which meant he could attend services at his Kingdom Hall. Everything was fine until 2014, when the company assigned him a new route that created a conflict.
Indian River had no choice but to give him that route, constraints and all, but they also offered an Walker an accommodation: They could assign him other routes that didn’t require working on Sundays, but those routes paid less money. There were also a lot of personal conflicts with management around that time, and Walker came to believe his supervisors were sabotaging him by giving him faulty trucks.
He eventually filed a lawsuit against the company saying they “failed to accommodate his religious practices” and “discriminated and retaliated against him.”
A district court ruled in favor of the company, Walker appealed, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled unanimously to affirm the earlier decision. It’s the right move against Walker, whose religious beliefs created an untenable position for the company and who refused to accept an alternative route when the company tried to make things better. The judges also dismissed any claims of retaliation, saying Walker provided no proof they were out to get him.
Check out what they wrote to dismiss the claim of religious discrimination. It just lays out the facts and shows the company did everything they could to give him what he wanted… until they couldn’t anymore.
Indian River offered Walker a reasonable accommodation as a matter of law… As [company vice president Angel] Deliz explained, drivers who needed a particular day off each week were not a good fit for the milk route. The unpredictable wait times at the processing facility meant that even off duty drivers had to be prepared to work unexpectedly to deliver empty tankers to the dairy. Because the need for extra drivers could arise at any time, all of the drivers assigned to the milk route had to be flexible with their scheduling. Walker’s need for Sundays off meant that he lacked the required flexibility, so Indian River accommodated him by offering him non-dedicated local routes that would not involve the possibility of mandatory Sunday work. This accommodation was reasonable because it “eliminate[d] the conflict between [Walker’s] employment requirements and [his] religious practices.”
This decision isn’t particularly controversial. Just because your religious beliefs get in the way of your work doesn’t mean there’s some conspiracy against you due to your faith. Thankfully, this court wasn’t suckered in by that argument, and the decision makes clear Walker had every opportunity to prove his case. He just failed.
Because of the unanimity of the ruling, this should be the end of the case. There’s nothing left to settle. Walker may want a job that gives him Sundays off, but not every company can make that happen. It doesn’t mean they hate him for his beliefs.