On or around October 5, 2019, Gaskill asked off on October 31, because of Halloween celebrations in the classroom. Gaskill was told to submit a formal, written request two weeks before October 31. Gaskill submitted a written request on or about October 17. However, on October 29, Gaskill was told that she would be required to work on October 31. Gaskill texted Mighty Oaks early in the morning on October 31 that she would not be coming to work that day because of her religious beliefs. Mighty Oaks informed Gaskill that she was "not permitted to be off work on October 31." Gaskill again told Mighty Oaks that she needed the day off, and also informed Mighty Oaks that she also needed November 1 off. When Gaskill returned to work the following Monday, she was fired. This lawsuit was filed in June 2020. The USDC entered a default in October 2020. Mighty Oaks failed to defend. Default judgment entered January 2021. Damages TBD.
 The grievor, Amanda Bitar, alleged that the employer, Statistics Canada, discriminated against her and harassed her on the basis of her religious affiliations, in violation of article 19 of the collective agreement between the Treasury Board and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (the bargaining agent) for the Program and Administrative Services Group (all employees), ...
 The grievor is a devout Jehovah's Witness. According to the doctrines of her faith, she does not celebrate Christmas or Valentine's Day. She explained that both of them are derived from pagan celebrations that Christianity adopted. Historically, her co-workers' celebrations of them in the workplace did not cause her problems while she worked as the assistant to the district manager, George Singer, because he allowed her to be absent for them. However, his retirement in June 2014 changed her circumstances.
 In December 2014 at a staff meeting, Mr. Singer's replacement, Eileen Wilson, asked the grievor if she would attend the Christmas lunch with her co-workers if they changed it to a holiday lunch and agreed not to discuss Christmas while she was there. This made her very uncomfortable, according to her testimony. Just because they would rename the lunch and there would be no discussions about Christmas, it was still to be held during the Christmas period, and in her opinion, it was still to celebrate Christmas. Ms. Wilson's attempts to have her attend the workplace function were harassment, in her opinion.
 The grievor testified that she felt pressured by Ms. Wilson to attend, in front of her co-workers. According to her, had she gone to the lunch as proposed by Ms. Wilson, the entire situation would have been very awkward, and it would have stopped others from celebrating something they believed in, which she did not want. She advised Ms. Wilson that she would not attend. Ms. Wilson's response was that if she did not attend, she was expected to stay at her workstation and work while the others attended, or alternatively, she would have to use her banked leave to take the time off.
 As it turned out, the grievor was not scheduled to work the day on which the lunch was held, so there was no need for her to remain at her workstation during the meal. However, on that day, she took issue with the luncheon attendees being allowed to go home directly from the restaurant, meaning that they were essentially granted 1 hour and 45 minutes of paid leave that they did not have to deduct from their leave banks. She considered it discrimination because but for the fact that she was a Jehovah's Witness, she would have been granted the same benefit. She testified that she was entitled to it regardless of the fact that she did not work the day of the luncheon.
 Ms. Wilson's next incident of discrimination against the grievor was related to the employer's "Employee Appreciation Day" (EAD) celebrations in February 2015. In 2006, the grievor had been involved in EAD events as part of the planning committee, at Mr. Singer's request. At that time, she had been part of it for five months when she read a newsletter that explained why the employer had chosen Valentine's Day as the date for the EAD celebrations. Once she became aware that the EAD celebrations were linked to Valentine's Day, she told Mr. Singer that she had to resign from the committee because of her religious beliefs. For the next eight years, she made a point of not working on the day on which the EAD celebrations were scheduled.
 The EAD events were scheduled for Friday, February 13, 2015, a day on which the grievor would not normally have been at work. However, due to a storm forecasted to hit the area of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on that day, the employer decided to reschedule the events to Thursday, February 12, a day on which she was scheduled to work. She was not aware of the sudden change until she arrived at work on February 12, so she could not have planned to take leave that day, to avoid the celebrations. Furthermore, at approximately noon that day, she was told that her desk was to be used for one of the EAD activities between 13:30 and 14:30.
 Since it was impossible for the grievor to remain at her desk and work discreetly, given the circumstances, she asked Ms. Wilson if she could go to the Scotia Square Mall between 13:30 and 14:30, according to her evidence. She explained to Ms. Wilson the connection between the EAD and Valentine's Day and how as a Jehovah's Witness, it was against her religion to celebrate Valentine's Day. According to her, Ms. Wilson did not understand why she wanted to leave for the hour; nor did Ms. Wilson understand the link between the EAD and Valentine's Day, even though the grievor had clearly established that the EAD was always held around February 14 each year and that chocolate hearts were always given out. Despite this, according to the grievor, Ms. Wilson became irritated and was unwilling to discuss the matter.
 The meeting with Ms. Wilson occurred at approximately noon on February 12, following her EAD address to the staff. The grievor testified that she then returned to her desk and worked until 13:30, at which point she left the premises and combined her two 15-minute breaks and her 30-minute lunch hour to make up the hour she needed to be absent from her desk to avoid the EAD activities. She returned to her desk once the activity concluded.
 On cross-examination, the grievor conceded that she did not ask Ms. Wilson for permission to combine her breaks so that she could be away from her desk while it was being used; nor did she ask to be allowed to work elsewhere. She did ask for the same leave that the others would receive for participating in the events, which was between 12:00 and 16:00. When it was denied, she then combined her lunch break with her morning and afternoon breaks to make up the hour she was out of the office.
 Following this incident, the grievor sent an email on March 26, 2015, with a newsletter attached, which in her mind clearly established the link between Valentine's Day and the EAD celebrations (Exhibit 2, tab 2). Ms. Wilson responded in a way that the grievor felt disrespected her, and she felt discriminated against. According to her testimony, she merely tried to explain the truth to Ms. Wilson, who was not willing to listen. Despite Ms. Wilson's unwillingness to accept the truth, the employer's numerous newsletters clearly proved the connection between the EAD, because of the dates of the EAD celebrations over the years, and the pictures of Valentine's Day decorations and references to chocolate hearts being given out (Exhibit 2, tabs 3 to 18, inclusive).
 In her email (Exhibit 2, tab 2), the grievor also took the opportunity to clarify that Ms. Wilson was mistaken as to what the grievor had requested on February 12. While Ms. Wilson had apparently understood that the grievor had intended to leave for the day when she spoke to Ms. Wilson on February 12, her intention was to be away from the office only for the hour during which her desk was being used for EAD activities.
 The next time the grievor heard about her requests not to be included in Christmas and EAD celebrations at the office was during her annual performance review, when her supervisor, Linda Ritchie, advised her that Ms. Wilson wanted her to know that her request to go home on the day of the EAD celebrations was inappropriate. Furthermore, according to the grievor, Ms. Ritchie was to record it in the grievor's performance review document, which Ms. Ritchie refused to do, despite Ms. Wilson's directions. Regardless, Ms. Ritchie told the grievor that her requests to be excluded from workplace situations due to religious reasons were a concern for Ms. Wilson. The grievor considered this a violation of her collective agreement and human rights, so on April 12, 2015, she filed her grievance.
 According to the grievor, at the performance review meeting, Ms. Ritchie told her that in the future, when workplace events occurred on days that she was scheduled to work, and she did not wish to participate in them, she would either have to take accumulated leave or remain at her desk and work. She was not entitled to simply leave the workplace. The grievor testified that she indicated to Ms. Ritchie that she had no issues with remaining at her desk and working. But on Valentine's Day, doing that had been impossible, since her workstation was being used as part of the event, and she had been told to clear her desk for the activities that were to begin at 13:30 on that day.
 The grievor asked Ms. Ritchie to request that Ms. Wilson look at the newsletter she had emailed that established the link between the EAD and Valentine's Day, but she refused to. The grievor testified that she was treated like a problem employee who used her religion to try to get out of work. The performance review was completed after this discussion, and she was very upset by what she perceived was a poor review. In cross-examination, she was referred to the performance review document (Exhibit 3, tab 6), to where it was noted that she had successfully met all expectations for that year. She testified that based on the conversation with Ms. Ritchie about her attending workplace events, she had not met the employer's expectations, even though that was not noted in the performance review document.
 After the performance review and her alleged mistreatment by Ms. Wilson, the grievor, who had a history of anxiety and depression, began to dread going to work. She became irritable and anxious about going to work. She could not understand why she could not please Ms. Wilson. Together with the stress of the grievance process, it eventually led to a relapse of her anxiety and depression. Her physician put her on medical leave from March 31, 2015, to June 1, 2015.
 The grievor was able to return to work only through a workplace accommodation that removed her from Ms. Wilson's reporting structure. She returned in September 2015 and was assigned to the Regional Census Centre in Halifax, where she remained until Ms. Wilson retired in June 2016. She returned to the Halifax Regional Office, her regular workplace, in September 2016, and stayed there until June 2018, when she again went off work due to illness related to stress as a result of significant family issues (Exhibit 5).
 Dr. Elena Swift has been the grievor's family physician for more than 10 years, including the period relevant to this grievance. She had determined in March 2015 that the grievor should go on sick leave due to her psychological health and had recommended that the grievor could not return to the workplace if she reported to Ms. Wilson.
 Dr. Swift based this conclusion on the grievor's report that she felt harassed by Ms. Wilson and on the fact that in Dr. Swift's assessment, the feeling was affecting the grievor's mental health. She suffered from diminished concentration and focus and from heightened anxiety. She reported that she did not feel that the work environment was safe for her. According to Dr. Swift's testimony, and given the grievor's history of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders, which had been exacerbated over several months before the grievor consulted her in March 2015, she concluded that interacting with Ms. Wilson caused the grievor severe anxiety symptoms and that it was best for her to have no contact with Ms. Wilson.
 The grievor had complained about workplace stress for a couple of years before this incident, according to Dr. Swift. But by that point, she was very anxious, worried excessively, and could not focus, and Dr. Swift described her as "just not herself". Dr. Swift's diagnosis was that in March 2015, the grievor was suffering from significant anxiety and depression symptoms because of the poor performance evaluation that she felt was unwarranted and because she felt harassed by Ms. Wilson. Dr. Swift was aware that the grievor had felt the relapse building for some time and that she mentioned something about an incident that had taken place around Christmas.
 Dr. Swift testified that her role as a physician was to protect the grievor and to keep her safe; keeping the grievor away from someone she felt unsafe with was within Dr. Swift's scope of practice. Dr. Swift admitted that when treating a patient with mental illness, any visit is very one-sided; the physician does not obtain an objective report of the workings of the workplace. Regardless, the physician's role is to advocate for the patient. According to Dr. Swift, validating information received from a patient is inconsistent with that role.
 Dr. Swift always tries to determine if her patients are contributing to workplace toxicity, because it may impact the accuracy of her diagnosis. She testified that she has some continuing-education-type expertise in human resources, discrimination, and harassment but that she is not an expert. She does not always assume that the information her patients provide is accurate. In the grievor's case, she did not accept the grievor's version of workplace events as accurate from the start, but the grievor brought emails that Ms. Wilson had sent her as evidence that she was being harassed. The emails were not retained in the medical file. When she was shown the email in which the employer's expectations were set out (Exhibit 2, tab 2), she noted the comment about miscommunication and agreed that it was not harassing. When she was shown the performance review document, she conceded that it was positive. The grievor had never shown her those documents.
 Dr. Swift was unaware that the grievor did not report directly to Ms. Wilson or that two levels of supervision were between them. Dr. Swift did not recall if she ever asked the grievor how often she interacted with Ms. Wilson. Despite this, and based on the fact that the grievor wanted to return to work, Dr. Swift wrote the medical note identifying the need for accommodation.
 Ms. Wilson took over as the employer's district manager, data collection, Atlantic Canada, in the fall of 2014, when Mr. Singer retired. She was responsible for three work areas, one being the clerical section where the grievor worked. Each section had a director and a supervisor responsible for its employees who reported to Ms. Wilson. When she took over from Mr. Singer, she was not provided with any information about an accommodation for religious reasons that was in place for the grievor.
 In late 2014, the grievor called Ms. Wilson and complained that Ms. Ritchie had been disrespectful to her on the phone. Ms. Wilson had heard other complaints about the clerical section, in that people there were being disrespectful and that it had problems. As a result, for a while in late 2014 and early 2015, she took a much more active role in managing it.
 Ms. Wilson held staff meetings every two weeks to deal with the behaviours that the grievor had identified during her call. At one of them, the group discussed dates for the Christmas luncheon. Ms. Wilson testified that she raised the issue of calling it by another name because otherwise, the group was excluding the grievor. She intended to be inclusive. She testified that she suggested that they call it a holiday lunch and that they agree not to discuss Christmas. The group agreed and encouraged the grievor to attend. She agreed to consider it but declined on the next day.
 The lunch was held on a day on which the grievor was not scheduled to work. According to Ms. Wilson, at no time did the grievor or anyone else tell her what the practice had been during Mr. Singer's tenure. As far as she knew, the normal government-wide practices applied.
 The EAD was scheduled for February 13, 2015, a day on which the grievor was not scheduled to work. Due to the forecasted severe winter storm, the celebrations were moved to February 12, which was her normally scheduled workday (she worked two days per week).
 The first time Ms. Wilson became aware that the grievor did not celebrate Valentine's Day was on February 12, when the grievor came to her door to speak to her. The grievor told her that she was leaving for the day. Normally, the grievor would have spoken to Ms. Ritchie, but as she was absent that day, she spoke to Ms. Wilson. Initially, Ms. Wilson thought that the grievor was ill, but the grievor responded that the EAD was a celebration of Valentine's Day, which her religion did not celebrate, so she was leaving for the day. Ms. Wilson testified that she responded to the contrary, stating that the EAD was for everyone, which the grievor refused to accept.
 The grievor was adamant that it was a Valentine's Day celebration, which, as a Jehovah's Witness, she did not celebrate. She insisted that clearly, the employer's headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario, had linked the EAD and Valentine's Day. Ms. Wilson responded that they were not linked in Halifax, even if they were linked in Ottawa. As proof, she reminded the grievor of the speech she had just given, which the grievor had just heard. It did not refer to Valentine's Day. If they were linked, Ms. Wilson assured the grievor that she would have wished everyone a happy Valentine's Day, which she had not done.
 Ms. Wilson testified that she pointed out to the grievor that there were no decorations or candy of any kind in the office that would indicate to anyone that her workplace was celebrating Valentine's Day. The grievor told Ms. Wilson that she had once been on the EAD fundraising committee and that she had resigned because of its link to Valentine's Day, so Ms. Wilson was wrong. It was clear to Ms. Wilson that the discussion would have no resolution. The entire interaction took less than five minutes, as Ms. Wilson recalled. As was her habit when she thought things might escalate, she wrote a note to file concerning the incident (Exhibit 3, tab 7).
 Ms. Wilson dealt with the grievor's request to go home that day only because Ms. Ritchie was not in the office. Otherwise, the grievor would have taken her request to Ms. Ritchie. In her absence, Ms. Wilson was the next in line of supervision. When Ms. Ritchie returned, Ms. Wilson asked her to meet with the grievor and obtain a list of days on which she felt uncomfortable being at work due to religious reasons. Ms. Wilson knew about Christmas but wanted to be fully informed as to the days on which the grievor would seek religious accommodation. Ms. Ritchie was to talk to the grievor and inform her of the employer's expectations on those days on which she did not want to participate in workplace events; she was to either take leave or show up for work and remain there. The grievor was not entitled to simply go home; she was required to comply with the same rules as do all public servants.
 Approximately a week after the EAD, Ms. Wilson asked Ms. Ritchie if she had spoken to the grievor. She replied that she had not. She indicated that she intended to do it when the two met to complete the grievor's annual performance review. According to Ms. Wilson's testimony, she gave explicit directions to Ms. Ritchie that she could do that, but Ms. Ritchie was to make it clear that it was not part of the performance review, and it was not to be put in the evaluation document.
 Ms. Wilson was not aware that the grievor had made complaints about her. She had no idea that the grievor was upset with her or how she dealt with the grievor's requests to absent herself for religious reasons. The grievor never talked to her, according to the testimony. Had she known that she was causing the grievor pain, she would have worked diligently to resolve things.
 Ms. Wilson testified that those who attended the Christmas luncheon in December 2014 were allowed 1 hour and 45 minutes of leave that they did not have to account for via their leave banks. The reason was that it was not possible for them to go to a restaurant, be served, and eat within their limited amount of meal-break time. Christmas is the exception to the rule, according to Ms. Wilson, in that employees who attend an event do not have to take leave but are paid for their time. When she was asked if the employees had to put in for leave with pay for other reasons under clause 52.01 of the collective agreement, Ms. Wilson testified that she did not know. In any event, she could not approve such leave; she could only recommend that it be approved, which, had the employees requested it, she would have done, but it did not arise.
 This exception to the rule does not apply to employees who do not attend a Christmas luncheon, according to Ms. Wilson. They must either be at work for the full day or take leave for any part of the day for which they are not at work. This was so for her 35 years of public-service employment.
 Ms. Wilson testified that she was blindsided by the grievor's insistence that the EAD was a celebration of Valentine's Day. Ms. Wilson had never heard anyone make that link on any management calls discussing EAD plans. There were no decorations in the workplace indicating that the EAD was a celebration of Valentine's Day. Despite the newsletters that the grievor had sent her, Ms. Wilson was adamant that the theme for the EAD in Halifax was not Valentine's Day. Statistics Canada senior management had chosen a significant date to honour its employees, but that did not make it a Valentine's Day celebration. The employer's regions choose the EAD date.
 Since the grievor did not participate in the EAD events of February 12, 2015, she was entitled only to her usual lunch and two breaks. Had she wanted more time off, she would have had to take leave. She was not entitled to take four hours off, which was the duration of the EAD events, without putting in a leave request. Had she told Ms. Wilson that her workspace was being used for EAD activities, Ms. Wilson would have found her another workspace away from the EAD celebrations, where she could have worked undisturbed and where other employees were working who did not participate. The grievor did not do so, according to Ms. Wilson. She told Ms. Wilson that she wanted to go home because of the link between the EAD and Valentine's Day.
 Ms. Wilson denied that she directed Ms. Ritchie to address the grievor's attendance at workplace events as part of her annual performance review. Rather, following the EAD issue, she asked Ms. Ritchie to ask the grievor for a list of holidays that conflicted with the grievor's religion or other dates on which she would seek religious accommodation. Ms. Wilson also directed Ms. Ritchie to advise the grievor that if an event that conflicted with her religious beliefs was to occur on a day on which she was scheduled to work, in the future, she would be required to reschedule her day, put in a request for leave for the day, or stay at work while others participated.
 The problem was that Ms. Ritchie did not do as Ms. Wilson requested when she requested it. The next opportunity to do it was during the grievor's performance review. Ms. Wilson testified that she agreed to it being done then as long as the discussion was not recorded as part of the review. Such a review is about the performance of work duties and not about the need to be accommodated.
CLICK LINK TO READ SUMMARY OF ARGUMENTS AND DECISION.
JERMI LITTLE v. HANES INDUSTRIES is an ongoing 2017-2020 North Carolina federal employment discrimination lawsuit brought by an interesting "Jehovah's Witness" plaintiff, who apparently was not actually a Jehovah's Witness. Jermi Little was reared as one of Jehovah's Witnesses by an African-American mother and a Caucasian father. We have no way of knowing if Little was ever baptized as an official member, and if so, whether he was ever later disfellowshipped, or whether his local Hickory, North Carolina Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses possibly considered Little to have automatically "disassociated" himself when he enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school. In any event, Jermi Little currently has claimed to be a "Christian who believes in the practices of Jehovah's Witnesses", including not celebrating Christmas.
Little began working as a full-time production employee at Hanes in Conover, North Carolina, in June 2011, and worked there until December 15, 2015, when he was fired after working for about a month as a truck driver. Hanes alleges that "although Little performed more or less satisfactorily in most of his production positions, he was viewed as somewhat of a 'loner' and had a number of negative interactions with co-workers of all races." Interestingly, despite that portrayal, a number of Hanes' coworkers and even two supervisors knew Jermi Little very well. Coworkers included a caucasian Uncle and an African-American cousin. One supervisor was a "close family friend", while a second supervisor was a fellow JW during Little's formative years. Who knows how many of these or other coworkers are Jehovah's Witnesses who apparently have never complained of discrimination at Hanes?
Jermi Little's religious discrimination claim involved his attendance and conduct at Hane's 2012 "year-end business dinner", which Little refers to as a "Christmas party". In 2014, when Little applied for a truck driver position, Little was not selected for an interview. Little was told that the reason was "because of his attitude". Specifically, Little was told that his behavior at the 2012 year-end dinner had made a negative impression on senior management. Hanes alleges that during the 2012 dinner that Little had refused to sit down with his co-workers, but instead, Little had paced around the room while the PRESIDENT of the company was making a presentation.
Little denies that that happened. The parties also disagree on how much upper management knew about Little's religious beliefs. Hanes denies that senior managers knew that Little had a religious objection to the year-end dinner, and further alleges that Little never requested any religious accommodation related to the dinner. Little now alleges that the four coworkers and supervisors mentioned above all knew about Little's JW Background and beliefs. Possibly, Little expected that those individuals were somehow responsible for informing senior management about Little's personal beliefs.
One senior manager later spoke to Little about his conduct at the dinner. Little claims that he replied, "I don't have to participate in a religious holiday to be considered for a job." Senior manager allegedly responded, "Well, it don't look good." Not liking that response, Little reported such to Hanes VP for Human Resources, stating "I don't have to participate to be considered for a job," and "it doesn't matter what religion I am, and whether I participate in a Christmas party or not." The parties also disagree about these exchanges.
Jermi Little was fired in December 2015 after completing a delivery. Surveillance footage showed that while entering that customer's property that Little took a corner too sharply and knocked the entrance gate down. When Little was about to leave, he noticed that the entrance gate was down. Little says that he had not felt anything when he drove in, but concluded he must have hit the gate. Rather than simply leaving, Little turned around, went back to the receiving door and knocked again, all while standing in a rainstorm. Little knocked for several minutes, but no one answered. He placed five or six calls to his supervisor, as he had been instructed, so that he could report this incident. When supervisor did not respond to his calls, Little drove his truck directly back to Hanes (less than two minutes away) and immediately went to find his supervisor. Little found his supervisor within a few minutes and told him that he thought that he had hit the entrance gate. Supervisor asked Little if he had damaged the truck, and if anyone had seen him hit the gate. If not, supervisor said "Then don't worry about it."
Soon after Little told Supervisor about the incident, the customer sent an email to Hanes complaining about the gate. Senior managers subsequently called Little in to discuss the accident. Little said the accident was his fault and offered to pay for the damage out of his own pocket. Hanes says that "because of the very high premium that Hanes places on good customer relations", [senior management] considered Little's failure to report the accident to [customer] before leaving the scene a terminable offense. So, after Little's termination had been approved by a review board of senior management, Little was informed that the review board had decided to terminate Little's employment with Hanes. The reason given for the termination was Little's leaving the scene without reporting the accident to the customer. According to Hanes, Little was not offered the opportunity to return to a production level position because Hanes has a longstanding policy and practice of not demoting drivers back to production positions.
In December 2015, Little filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging discrimination based on race and religion and retaliation. Little received a "right to sue" letter from the EEOC on September 28, 2017, and Little filed this lawsuit on December 22, 2017. Little alleges in this action that he was discriminated against because of his race (bi-racial) and religion (Jehovah's Witness) and that he is the victim of unlawful retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In October 2019, the USDC summarily dismissed Little's religious discrimination and retaliation claims after finding that Little's firing had nothing to do with the events surrounding the "Christmas party", but rather were due to Little's truck accident. However, Little submitted evidence of at least two comparator Hanes drivers, both Caucasians, who possibly were just as bad at delivery driving as was Little, yet either they were not fired, or not fired as quickly as was Little. The USDC ruled that whether Little's termination had been the subject of racial discrimination was a question to be decided by a trier of fact. Pending.
SHEKINAH G. BAEZ v. PEDIATRICS 2000 is an ongoing 2019-2020 New York federal lawsuit filed by EEOC on behalf of a 23 year-old female African-American Jehovah's Witness who was employed as an administrative assistant at one of the health care provider's two Manhattan locations. EEOC alleges that early in December 2018 that employer actually told Baez to begin planning a company party to be held on a weekend later that month. Despite allegedly being told that such would not be a "holiday party", it gradually became obvious to Baez that the party included all the trappings of such an event, including planned dancing, drinking, etc. EEOC alleges that owner had long referred to Baez's religion as a "cult", and he was well aware that Baez would not attend a "holiday party". Shekinah Baez requested that she be allowed to skip the party, but was fired. Pending.
2020 UPDATE: In June 2020, the U.S. District Court entered a four-year consent decree to resolve the case. The decree gives $68,000 in lost wages and other damages for Shekinah Baez, and grants injunctive relief, including: the creation of anti-discrimination policies and procedures that commit Pediatrics 2000 to provide equal opportunity in all aspects of employment, including religious beliefs; the appointment of equal employment opportunity coordinators to investigate and resolve discrimination complaints; training for both management and employees about their rights and obligations under Title VII; an employment reference for the employee; and periodic reporting to the EEOC. According to the EEOC, Pediatrics 2000 was aware that Baez was a Jehovah's Witness when she was hired and initially accommodated her request not to work on Wednesdays due to her religious meeting on that day. But then the company placed her on probation for missing work on Wednesdays. When Baez requested to be excused from the company's holiday party for religious reasons, she was fired even though other employees were permitted to miss the party for non-religious reasons.
CHRISTINE MARIE DUSSIA v. UNIVERSAL ORLANDO was a 2017-19 Florida employment discrimination lawsuit. In March 2013, Dussia was hired to promote Universal Orlando and sell Universal tickets to tourists while working at the guest services desk in various Orlando area hotels.
Around June 2013, Dussia was given to wear a Universal lanyard specially designed for the upcoming FOURTH OF JULY holiday. Dussia was also directed to attend Universal's FOURTH OF JULY festivities so that she could speak intelligently about such to her potential customers. Dussia refused to do both, explaining that her WatchTower religious beliefs prohibited her from doing either.
After explaining such to her supervisor, Dussia had to further explain such to Universal's Human Resources, in July 2013. Dussia allegedly was told to either quit or go on 30-day unpaid administrative leave while Universal tried to find for Dussia a job that met Dussia's religious requirements. Dussia reportedly agreed to the unpaid administrative leave. Dussia alleged that she was placed on leave for two months without being offered a new job. Universal terminated Christine Dussia in October 2013.
In 2017, Christine M. Dussia, age 47, sued Universal for religious discrimination and employer retaliation. Dussia alleged that she was forced to promote holidays that violated her Jehovah's witness beliefs, and that when she refused to wear a lanyard promoting Universal's holiday events or attend those holiday celebrations, Universal retaliated against her by firing her. In April 2019, Universal settled this lawsuit under a "confidential agreement" which bars release of the amount or other details.
CYNTHIA PENA v. FIRST STATE BANK OF ODEM was a 2017-19 Texas federal employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a Jehovah's Witness former employee named Cynthia Pena. Pena claimed that she had been fired by BANK, and that such firing was illegally based on her WatchTower religion and her recent disability. BANK was caught offguard by Cynthia Pena's lawsuit given that BANK employs multiple Jehovah's Witnesses and attempts to fully accommodate WatchTower Cult practices and beliefs. Additionally, given the circumstances, BANK was under the impression that Pena had resigned if not abandoned her job.
BANK twice hired Cynthia Pena knowing that she was a JW. Bank initially hired Pena in the 1990s. She voluntarily left the Bank's employ to work elsewhere and was re-hired in 2000. At that time, she started as a teller and, through multiple promotions, eventually became Branch Manager at the Bank's Robstown branch.
On April 14, 2017, Pena was not feeling well. Her husband came to the bank, took her pulse, and declared that she was having heart palpitations and needed medical attention. Pena left with her husband and never returned to work. Thereafter, Pena did not communicate with the Bank unless its employees contacted her first. Her silence was despite her knowledge that Bank policy required doctor's notes for employees who were out sick for more than a day or two. After Pena had been absent three weeks, the Bank's Vice President of Operations requested a doctor's excuse. Pena's family doctor issued an excuse dated May 2, 2017, stating that Pena could return to work without restrictions on May 16. However, Pena never gave that excuse to Bank.
On May 11, 2017, Pena provided a doctor's excuse that said only that Pena was under the doctor's care and, "Allow her to be absent from work for 2 weeks until medically cleared." Pena did not return to work in two weeks and did not provide any additional doctor excuses or proof of medical restrictions on work.
On May 24, 2017, Pena texted the Bank's Senior Vice President and Cashier with questions about the status of her job, insurance benefits, and her COBRA rights. Pena was concerned that her job was in jeopardy because of her absence.
On June 16, 2017, Pena notified Supervisor that she had a tumor and said, "thank u for all the bank has done for me." Pena also asked Supervisor to advise her of when her paid leave would expire, which was done. Pena later admitted, "I knew my position wasn't guaranteed if I was sick." On June 17, 2017, Pena texted Supervisor that she had been diagnosed with colon cancer. Pena thanked him for being a good boss and told him she had enjoyed working at the bank. Pena also wrote, "maybe some day I will return & get the opportunity to work again." Pena filed a claim for long term disability insurance with the Bank's cooperation in providing the necessary forms and urging her to submit the claim right away. Pena also applied for and received unemployment insurance benefits. Bank paid Pena through July, based on her remaining sick leave and annual leave benefits.
On August 3, 2017, Bank advised Pena that Bank had to clean out Pena's office. The next day, August 4, Pena went to the Bank to clear out the desk herself, shredding notes about Bank operations that she had kept for her personal use. At that point, Pena had not previously presented herself as ready, willing, and able to return to work. However, Pena went to VP's office that day to tell him she was fine and ready to come back to work. On the following Monday, August 7, Pena initiated contact with supervisors, claiming that she was ready to return to work, but she did not yet have a doctor's release.
Two days later, Cynthia Pena reportedly hired an attorney to help her pursue a claim of employment discrimination against Bank after allegedly having spoke with a former Bank VP who suggested that the Bank had discriminated against Pena because of her Jehovah's Witness faith. Pena filed her EEOC Charge of Discrimination on November 10, 2017.
It is undisputed that Bank re-hired Pena in 2000, after she had left for another job, knowing that she was a Jehovah's Witness, and that Bank employs other Jehovah's Witnesses. It is further undisputed that Bank permitted Pena to take a week off every year, with pay, to attend the Jehovah's Witness annual convention.
However, Pena alleges a number of instances regarding a Bank supervisor, who had retired in 2012, who taunted Pena because Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate holidays. In particular, one supervisor questioned whether Pena could accept a full-size poinsettia given one time to all employees in anticipation of the Christmas holiday by a bank director. Pena accepted such. On another occasion, same supervisor deliberately excluded Pena from the count of employees to receive a customer-supplied poinsettia. Same supervisor also teased Pena about receiving annual "Christmas" bonuses like the rest of the employees.
Corina Garcia, the Bank's former Vice President of Operations, testified that another branch manager told her that Chairman of the Board Buddy Wood, his administrative assistant, and Bank VP were prejudiced against Pena because of her religion and that Garcia should anticipate obstacles to any effort she might make to further promote Pena. Bank VP specifically objected to Pena getting paid leave on the Fourth of July week every year to attend the Jehovah's Witness convention, and he wanted to ensure that if any other more senior employee wanted to take that week off, that no preference should be given to Pena.
In September 2019, the USDC summarily dismissed this lawsuit in its entirety.
GUELDA E. BROWN v. MONTEFIORE MEDICAL CENTER ET AL is an ongoing 2018-20 New York federal employment discrimination lawsuit. Guelda Brown brings this lawsuit against Montefiore Medical Center and five current and retired Montefiore coworkers and supervisors. Brown claims that she was discriminated against based on her African-Dominican heritage, based on her religious beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness, and based on her gender. Brown asserts claims under Title VII, under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL); and under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). Brown also claims that she was denied medical leave in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Brown's Amended Complaint asserts state law claims for assault, negligence, and breach of contract.
Guelda E. Brown is a 53 year-old African-Dominican woman born in the United States. Brown began working at Montefiore in 1995 as a medical secretary. In 2008, Brown became a senior clerk in the Medical Center's Home Care department. In 2013, Brown converted to the Jehovah's Witness religion. Of the five current and retired Montefiore coworkers and supervisors named in this lawsuit, two coworkers are African-American females, one supervisor is Asian male, one supervisor was a white female, and one coworker was a white male.
Brown claims that throughout her employment she was actively and consistently harassed, discriminated against, and retaliated against as a result of her African-Dominican heritage. Such only worsened after Brown became a Jehovah's Witness. Examples of such include: Dominicans were spoken of disparagingly. Brown alleges that she was forbidden to speak Spanish at any time with coworkers permitted to speak Spanish. Brown claims that during every Christmas season that she was asked why she didn't celebrate Christmas. In 2016, Brown's supervisor allegedly gave nice Christmas gifts to everyone else in the department except Brown. In 2017, Brown was excluded from a department photograph intended to be used as a Christmas decoration. Brown complains that training and advancement opportunities were kept from her. Deserved medical and family leave was denied. Etc. Etc.
By 2018, Brown could no longer handle the stress. Brown's psychiatrist recommended 30 days leave. Brown requested and was granted a job transfer. By April 2018, Brown was unable to work at Montefiore. Brown has been on unpaid leave since.
Guelda Brown filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on March 28, 2018. EEOC chose not to prosecute, but issued a Right-To-Sue letter on April 17, 2018. Brown filed this lawsuit that same day. The USDC referred such to Magistrate Judge Parker, who after allowing multiple amendments issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that the parties' motions be granted in part and denied in part. In 2019, Brown's claims for sex discrimination under Title VII, breach of contract, assault, and negligence were dismissed with prejudice by the USDC. Brown's sex discrimination claims under the NYSHRL and the NYCHRL, and her FMLA claim, were dismissed with leave to amend. Pending.
DIERDRA A. BREWSTER v. NORTH CAROLINA SECRETARY OF STATE was a 2018-2019 employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a 58 year-old female African-American Jehovah's Witness employee named Dierdra Brewster, who had been employed by SOS since 2004. Despite her work experience, the USDC was unable to figure out from her lengthy complaint exactly why Brewster left her job, or even about what Brewster was complaining.
Dierdra Brewster seems to have left SOS voluntarily in February 2018, but she contends that she left because she could no longer tolerate the hostile work environment. Brewster then filed four EEOC charges of discrimination: (1) one charge alleged adverse employment action based on sex, age, and in retaliation for her complaint about work conditions; (2) one charge alleged discrimination based on a disability and race; (3) one charge alleged adverse employment action based on religion, age, and for retaliation; and (4) one charge alleged religious discrimination. The EEOC dismissed at least three of four charges and issued "right-to-sue" letters. The record is not clear as to what happened with the fourth charge.
Brewster filed this lawsuit against the SOS in September 2018. Brewster attached a narrative explanation of her claims that exceeded 100 pages. While Brewster brought claims for religious discrimination, age discrimination, and retaliation, she failed to produce any evidence to survive summary judgment. Using either Brewster's lengthy attachment to her complaint, her opposition brief, or her statement of material fact, the USDC was unable to discern the facts that form the basis of her claims. Reading SOS's summary judgment brief and statement of material facts, the USDC assumed that Brewster's religious discrimination claim had something to do with SOS's policies regarding holidays, and that Brewster's age discrimination claim involved Brewster's perception that younger employees were afforded increased responsibilities. The basis for Brewster's retaliation claim seems to be Brewster's belief that SOS gave negative information about her to prospective employers. SOS produced evidence about these policies supporting its assertion that they are not discriminatory. While Brewster seems to dispute SOS's characterization of her charges, the USDC was unable to discern the precise nature of the dispute.
While pro se litigants are entitled to a certain amount of leniency from the courts, Brewster's pro se status did not relieve her of the responsibility to state her claims with at least minimal clarity and produce evidence supporting those claims in order to survive summary judgment. Brewster produced neither direct evidence of discrimination nor made a prima facie showing under the McDonnell Douglas framework. The USDC summarily dismissed Brewster's lawsuit in its entirety.
DONALD MCGILL v. SPRUCEDALE CARE CENTRE was a 2017-19 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario decision in which a Jehovah's Witness musician filed a complaint against a senior citizen's facility which had previously hired him to perform for its residents. Due to failure of the decision to specify exactly why -- other than the fact that Don McGill was a Jehovah's Witness -- officials at Sprucedale refused to further hire Donald McGill after his last performance sometime prior to April 2016. McGill failed to file this complaint until after the statute of limitations had expired -- in July 2017. Case dismissed in 2019.
The Theocratic War Doctrine: Why Jehovah's Witnesses Lie In Court
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