The Spot

Can You Really Get Off Work in Brazil by Claiming Your Religion Is “Football”?

Spoiler: The World Cup is not Yom Kippur.

Cerveja FOCA.

Cerveja FOCA is a small company that had a big idea. The beer manufacturer would register “Futebol” as an official religion in Brazil, and host a website informing companies they were legally obligated to let employees off during the World Cup to practice their faith.  If you go to the site and fill out a form, the company will email your Brazilian employer to notify them that you are a Footballite and “therefore, pursuant to section 14 of the law of religious freedom” you have the legal right to take off work during games.

This is not a hoax, a person claiming to be Cerveja FOCA social media manager Lucas Vinicius Silverio promised me in a Facebook chat. “The campaign is serious. The football was indeed registered as a religion and now all the football fans have the same rights others religious do,” Silverio said. “The employer has to let the employee go to the game. The law is in his side.”

That is certainly how Ad Age semi-credulously reported it.

So, congratulations, Brazilian Soccerologists, you found a loophole. Enjoy your nice cool, FOCA beer holy water while you watch your Seleção take on the world from the comfort of anywhere other than your office.

Or maybe don’t.

“It is definitely a hoax,” Professor Homero Batista Mateus da Silva told me over email. “Brazil has no Religious Freedom Act,” explains Homero, who teaches Brazilian labor law at the Universidade de São Paulo and has been a judge at a local labor court for 18 years. “Our 1988 Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of belief and religion, but with no special labor rights concerning these beliefs,” he adds. The national labor laws do not list religious observance as a reason an employee is allowed to take off work. There is no section 14, either.

“If you belong to a religion and would like to pay respect to any special date, you must do that at your own expense,” Professor Homero says.

So, this appears to be nothing more than a somewhat clever marketing campaign that has attracted 15,000 YouTube views, 10,000 visits to the website as of Thursday, and some attention from a major American ad periodical.

As for whether any Brazilian would actually try to take advantage of the Futebol Religião site to try to get a day off work, the professor says that “no Brazilians would actually fall for [it].” Why? “There are some dreadful Portuguese mistakes in the website and in the text, which would be enough to reveal they are not serious.”