The Pepsi Bottling Group, Inc. violated federal law by failing to accommodate and firing an employee with a disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a workplace discrimination lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Eldridge Davis, age 46 and African American, worked for Pepsi since October 7, 1996, and was promoted to driver at Pepsi's Hayward, Calif., facility in December 1999. The agency's suit asserts that, at the end of July 2005, when Davis became ill and could not finish his route due to his disability, he followed proper procedure by informing his supervisor and the company that he would be out on medical leave. Although Pepsi was aware of Davis's disability and knew he was on leave from work because of his illness, it nevertheless terminated him for "job abandonment and violation of the company attendance policy," the EEOC said.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. The EEOC filed this suit (EEOC v. Pepsi Bottling Group, Inc., CV 09-4594 Chen) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation. The suit seeks monetary damages, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site and other injunctive relief.
"When an employer knows that an employee has a disability and is absent from work because of it, the employer should confer with the employee and seek to accommodate him," said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. "Medical leave is a widely recognized accommodation, and in Mr. Davis's case, could easily have been granted, averting the termination of a valuable and experienced employee."
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, "The interactive process is the keystone of the accommodation process. In this case, the EEOC found that Pepsi Bottling was much more interested in terminating a disabled employee than accommodating him and failed in its responsibility to seek a solution."
According to the company's web site, www.pbg.com, Somers, N.Y.-based The Pepsi Bottling Group, Inc. is the world's largest manufacturer, seller and distributor of Pepsi-Cola beverages, with operations in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Russia, Spain, Turkey and Greece, and with over 70,000 employees worldwide. The company produces and sells more than 1.7 billion cases of beverages each year.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.