JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES
HOLIDAYS COURT CASES
After 40 years of having operated there, in November 2016, the SALVATION ARMY and its local volunteer BELLRINGERS were thrown off United States Post Office property by the new Postmaster of the Paso Robles, California Post Office after the Jehovah's Witnesses at the Paso Robles Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses filed a complaint of discrimination claiming that they previously had been denied space on the same front steps of the Paso Robles Post Office so that they could erect a WATCHTOWER CULT LITERATURE STAND.
That's exactly the public relations bonanza needed by the United States Postal Service -- a grossly overpaid bureaucracy of halfwits and social misfits who somehow manage to regularly screw up the simplest task of placing letters and parcels in the correct slot. Our guess is that posting a photograph of the 2016 Paso Robles postmaster and staff alongside a photograph of the 1976 Paso Robles postmaster and staff would likely answer the question of how such an abundance of STUPIDITY and INCOMPETENCE could flourish in only 40 years.
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.
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.
KIM J. KIMBERLY v. HORIZON FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT is an ongoing 2016-18 Indiana federal employment discrimination lawsuit. An African-American Jehovah's Witness named Kim Kimberly, age 57, of Hobart, Indiana, was hired by Horizon in August 2012. In October 2014, Kimberly was promoted to Floor Supervisor. Prior to accepting that promotion, Kimberly reminded her Supervisor that she was a Jehovah's Witness, and that she would not participate in the celebration of holidays. Supervisor agreed. However, only a few days later, in November 2014, Supervisor asked Kimberly to help decorate the company Xmas Tree. Kimberly refused. In December 2014, Supervisor asked Kimberly to judge the company's "Ugly Sweater"contest, which Kimberly considered to be part of Horizon's Christmas celebration. Kimberly refused. Shortly thereafter, Supervisor asked Kimberly to participate in various birthday celebrations. Kimberly refused.
Some time thereafter, Kimberly offered, and Supervisor accepted, some WatchTower literature which more fully explained Kimberly's position as to the celebration of holidays and birthdays. Kimberly's supervisor thereafter began to question Kimberly about her religious beliefs during walks they took together during breaks. (Interestingly, such questioning is exactly what the WatchTower Cult wishes to happen to its members whom are making themselves a "spectacle" at their workplace. See Home Page remarks.However, in her lawsuit, Kimberly paints such questioning as being "unwelcomed"; paints her replies as being "forced"; and claims that such conversations were "harassment".)
All went well until September 2015, when Supervisor planned a day when all employees could dress up for Halloween. Kimberly did not participate. Neither did one of Kimberly's co-workers named Tykeyia Harmon, whom although claiming not to be a Jehovah's Witness, did so for "religious reasons". Kimberly's third quarter 2015 performance evaluation was lower than previous evaluations. Kimberly requested an explanation, but allegedly received none. Two weeks after that evaluation, Kimberly complained to Horizon's Director of Operations. Kimberly was fired the next day -- allegedly for calling a co-worker "ghetto", and allegedly for making derogatory remarks about a co-worker's religion.
Two weeks later, in October 2015, Kim Kimberly and Tykeyia Harmon traveled together to Indianapolis where they both filed complaints with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Despite what appears from the reading of Kimberley's complaint to be a slam-dunk case, after a lengthy investigation, EEOC decided not to pursue Kimberly's case, but rather issued to Kimberly a Right-To-Sue Letter in August 2016.
Kimberly filed this federal lawsuit in November 2016. Kimberly's complaint alleged religious discrimination and retaliation, racial discrimination and retaliation, and intentional infliction of mental and emotional distress. In November 2017, the USDC dismissed the retaliation claim which related to the religious discrimination claim due to legal technicalities. The balance of Kimberly's lawsuit is still pending.
See related court case: TYKEYIA HARMON v. HORIZON FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
BASHEGA A. MITCHELL v. AMERICAN EAGLE AIRLINES was a 2015-17 Louisiana federal employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a female African-American Jehovah's Witness named Bashega Mitchell, age 49, of Baton Rouge, Lousiana. Bashega Mitchell began working as a gate agent for American Airlines at the Baton Rouge airport in 1996, and apparently all had gone well until 2011. On March 21, 2011, Bashega Mitchell was demoted from her position as "Lead Agent" for allegedly allowing a co-worker to clock-in late, and for allegedly falsifying records related to that incident. Two months later, on May 18, 2011, Bashega Mitchell suffered some type of back injury. Mitchell was medically accommodated by being placed on light duty status, which wound up lasting until February 8, 2012.
INTERESTINGLY, Bashega Mitchell's later claim of religious discrimination arose from the company's 2011 CHRISTMASPARTY. After Mitchell informed her supervisor that she could not attend the 2011 Christmas party due to Mitchell's (apparently newfound) WatchTower beliefs which prohibit the celebration of Xmas, Mitchell's supervisor scheduled Mitchell to work the ticket counter alone, while Mitchell's co-workers attended the 2011 Xmas party. The USDC was befuddled how Bashega Mitchell found this to be religious discrimination, stating in part, "Mitchell, however, fails to demonstrate how working during a Christmas party is a cognizable adverse employment action under the law."
On June 23, 2011, Mitchell filed a complaint with EEOC claiming that her demotion had been a form of racial discrimination. On February 9, 2012, Mitchell was placed on permanent medical leave. On July 2, 2012, Mitchell filed an amended complaint with EEOC wherein she broadened her claim to include discrimination based upon sex, religion, unfair working conditions, hostile work environment, and retaliation. Bashega Mitchell was terminated on February 9, 2014, per AEA's established policy of terminating employees who were unable to return to work following a two year period of medical leave. On April 20, 2015, EEOC issued Mitchell a "Right to Sue Letter".
On November 10, 2015, Mitchell filed this federal lawsuit claiming that she was discriminated against based upon race, religion, disability, and sex. In August 2016, the USDC summarily dismissed Mitchell's wrongful demotion claim and those discrimination and retaliation claims that occurred prior to the employer's Bankruptcy Petition Date -- November 29, 2011. In June 2017, the USDC summarily dismissed the rest of Bashega Mitchell's claims.
JOHNNIE IVEY JOHNSON v. PITT COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION ET AL was a 2012-14 North Carolina federal employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a male African-American Jehovah's Witness Minister named Johnnie Ivey Johnson, aka Dillar Johnson, then age 52, of Greenville, North Carolina. Incomplete details. Johnnie I. Johnson was approved as a "Substitute Teacher" by the Pitt County North Carolina Board of Education in 2004, after Johnson took "early retirement" from a fulltime teaching position in Virginia sometime prior to 2002.
Around 2011-12, Johnnie Johnson was deleted from the substitute teachers list for Aycock Middle School -- possibly at the request of the school's Principal. Relating to such, in 2012, Johnson filed a complaint with the EEOC claiming employment discrimination. Later, in 2012, Johnson filed this federal lawsuit. Specific charges unknown.
Shortly after the filing of the 2012 lawsuit, the Principal of Eastern Elementary School also submitted to the Board a negative evaluation of Johnson that included a request that Johnson be deleted from the substitute teachers list for Eastern Elementary School. That request was approved by the Board's Director of Personnel. Johnson's federal lawsuit was amended to include charges relating to his removal from that second school's list. Johnson allegd that his constitutional right to due process had been violated, that he had been defamed, and that he had been the victim of retaliation.
In November 2013, the USDC ruled against Johnnie Ivey Johnson, and that decision was affirmed on Johnson's appeal by the USCA, in July 2014.
JOHNNIE IVEY JOHNSON v. PITT COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION ET AL was a second 2016-17 North Carolina federal employment discrimination lawsuit filed by Johnnie Ivey Johnson, then age 55, against his continuing parttime employer. In September 2015, the Principal of Farmville Middle School requested that Johnnie Ivey Johnson be deleted from the substitute teachers list for Farmville Middle School. That request was accompanied by an evaluation of Johnson that allegedly documented seven (7) incidents of tardiness, including one in which the Principal had already requested a replacement for Johnson by the time that Johnson arrived at work. Johnson's performance was rated as "Below Standard" in numerous categories, and included several concerns from students regarding Johnson's behavior.
In October 2015, while substituting at Rose High School, during a World History class that taught that the celebration of Christmas was part of worldwide Christianity, a student asked Johnnie Johnson "why he did not celebrate Christmas". (How did students know that Johnson did not celebrate Christmas?) Johnson stated that he did not celebrate Christmas because it derived from "non-Christian, or rather pagan traditions". When the Principal learned that Johnson had contradicted the lesson plan, Johnson was called into the Principal's office. The Principal informed Johnson that his statements to the class concerning Christmas had been inappropriate, and that she was going to request that Johnson be deleted from the substitute teachers list for Rose High School. Johnson told the Principal not to remove him from the list because he had not been "promoting or opposing any religion". While the Principal never did officially request that Johnson be removed from her school's list, that Principal personally canceled Johnson's assignments on six or more later occasions.
In February 2016, Johnnie Ivey Johnson filed an EEOC claim alleging age discrimination, religious discrimination, and retaliation. Johnson alleged that his removal from the substitute teachers list at Farmville Middle School and the cancellations of his assignments at Rose High School were both done in retaliation against Johnson for filing the previous 2012 EEOC claim; that the cancellations of his assignments at Rose High School were discriminatory against Johnson for being a Jehovah's Witness who does not celebrate Christmas; and that the cancellations of his assignments at Rose High School discriminated against Johnson based on his age. Johnson did not assert race discrimination in the EEOC charge, but Johnson's EEOC claim fleetingly referred to the Principal at Rose High School as discriminating against Johnson because he is black, and by replacing Johnson with caucasian substitutes 3-4 of the five times she had canceled his assignments.
On May 3, 2016, Johnnie I. Johnson received a "Right-To-Sue Letter from the EEOC, which dismissed his complaint. On July 28, 2016, Johnson filed this federal lawsuit claiming that the Board and various employees violated his First Amendment right to free speech, violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural due process, retaliation against him over the 2012 lawsuit, and discriminated against him due to his age and race. Johnson sought $75,000.00 in compensatory damages and $75,000.00 in punitive damages. Johnson also requested an injunction requiring school principals to confer with substitute teachers regarding all performance concerns before requesting that substitutes be removed from the list of available substitutes. In May 2017, the USDC dismissed all of Johnson's claims.
RICHARD APPLEYARD v. MURPHY OIL USA is an ongoing 2016 Tennessee federal employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a male Jehovah's Witness named Richard T. Appleyard, age 64, currently of Savannah, Tennessee. Richard Appleyard was employed as a cashier by Murphy Oil in June 2009 at its Russellville, Alabama convenience store location. In 2012, Appleyard transferred to Murphy's Savannah, Tenneesee store. Richard Appleyard was fired by Murphy in October 2014 after Appleyard's cash register allegedly came up "short".
Richard Appleyard alleges that cash register "shortage" allegations were nothing unusual for either himself or other cashiers, but rather was a pretext to fire Appleyard because he was a Jehovah's Witness. Appleyard further alleges that Murphy typically required both himself and other cashiers who came up "short" to work "off the clock" to make up for such shortages. Appleyard's lawsuit also seeks damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act for both Appleyard and other similarly situated employees who allegedly were forced to work without overtime compensation.
Richard Appleyard further alleges that Murphy's District Manager first began making disparaging comments about the Jehovah's Witnesses and Appleyard's WatchTower beliefs and practices "soon" after he was employed in 2009. However, Appleyard's lawsuit cites no specific instances of discrimination until 2013, when during some unspecified time during the Christmas holiday season Appleyard was admonished by both the District Manager and the Store Manager for refusing to greet store customers with "Merry Christmas". However, no other action was then taken against Appleyard.
In October 2014, Appleyard was fired by the District Manager due to the alleged cash register shortage. Richard Appleyard thereafter filed an employment discrimination complaint with the EEOC, but after their investigation the EEOC decided NOT to pursue a discrimination case against Murphy itself, instead issuing Appleyard a Right-To-Sue Letter. Appleyard and his attorney then filed this lawsuit in November 2016.
BOBBY WALKER JR. v. CITY OF KEY WEST FLORIDA was a 2016-17 Florida federal employment discrimination lawsuit filed by an African-American Jehovah's Witness named Bobby Walker Jr., age unknown, recently of Kissimmee, Florida (multiple former addresses). After working barely more than seven months -- from late May 2014 through December 2014 -- Bobby Walker Jr. was fired from his job as a "temporary" bus driver for the City of Key West, which is probably the most liberal and most "inclusive" municipality of its small size in the entire United States. (One can't help but wonder what it was about Key West -- a very expensive place to live -- that attracted Bobby Walker Jr. to relocate there to work at a $27,827 per year job???)
Shortly thereafter, Walker filed a complaint alleging racial discrimination and religious discrimination with the federal EEOC. In November 2015, after its full investigation, the EEOC reportedly dismissed Walker's complaint due to lack of evidence. Walker filed this federal lawsuit in March 2016 -- seeking back pay and benefits, as well as his attorneys fees and punitive damages.
Bobby Walker's complaint alleges that he was fired after requesting a shift change so that he did not have to work during the festive hours of New Years Eve 2014-15 due to his Jehovah's Witness religious beliefs. Walker further alleges that his problems began in October 2014, when Walker formally notified city officials that as one of Jehovah's Witnesses he would not participate in the city's Fantasy Fest parade, and possibly other Fantasy Fest activities (10-day long festival). Walker alleges that various city officials (several were Hispanics) thereafter ridiculed and mocked his WatchTower beliefs and practices, and began to direct racial slurs toward Walker. Walker claims that he then complained to higher city officials about those issues, but nothing was ever done, except that his hours were cut.2017 UPDATE: This lawsuit was settled "confidentially" in April 2017.
See also: BOBBY WALKER JR. v. INDIAN RIVER TRANSPORT COMPANY (2017)
, a failed employment discrimination lawsuit against Bobby Walker's second previous employer. Notably, a footnote in the USDC opinion indicates that Bobby Walker also was employed by BYNUM TRANSPORT INC.
in May 2014 -- after Indian River Transport Company, but prior to the City of Key West. The USDC Opinion states that Bynum Transport contacted Bobby Walker on May 16, 2015 about "personal use of their truck"
YVONNE LEMMONS v. SOUTHFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS is an ongoing 2016 Michigan federal employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a female Jehovah's Witness named Yvonne Lemmons, late 50s, of Detroit, Michigan. Lemmons reportedly was laid off from MacArthur University Academy at the end of the 2014 school year after having been employed by Southfield Public Schools as a 4th grade teacher for ten years. Lemmons alleges that that layoff was illegally motivated by her refusal to organize a Valentine Day's party for her class in February 2014. Apparently, parents of Lemmons' students had been asked to organize classroom parties previously, but the school Principal allegedly attempted to end that practice, and instructed Lemmons to begin doing so. Lemmons allegedly informed the Principal that celebrating holidays was against her WatchTower Cult religion, and that organizing holiday parties would violate those tenets. When the Principal refused to "accommodate" Lemmons' demand, Lemmons failed to show up for work the day of the party. Lemmons filed a complaint with EEOC, which chose not to file suit on Lemmons' behalf, but rather issued a Right-To-Sue Letter in October 2015.
Interesting for researchers, Google appears to indicate that "a" "Yvonne Lemmons" was a "7th grade science teacher" during the 2013-14 school year. Google also discloses "a" "Yvonne Renee Lemmons" living in the Detroit area who is a "former" Registered Pharmacist effective 1988.
DANA M. HUNTER v. JP MORGAN CHASE BANK is an ongoing 2011-14 New York state civil lawsuit in which a female JEHOVAH'S WITNESS ATTORNEY is essentially alleging that the Legal Department of one of the world's largest banks was stupid enough to fire one of its own Attorneys over her refusal to attend the Legal Department's annual Christmas luncheon due to her WatchTower beliefs.
Dana Hunter was employed as a Litigation Specialist by JP Morgan Chase Bank in New York City from February 2006 until her termination in December 2008. Hunter's termination letter indicated that her position had been eliminated in an overall staffing reduction. Hunter alleges that that reasoning was pretextual so that she could be illegally fired because of her WatchTower beliefs and practices. Hunter claims that she received permission to skip the 2006 Christmas Luncheon, but was made to stay and work in her office. In 2007, Hunter applied for a "religious accommodation" from the employer's Employee Relations Advice Connection, which granted such and gave permission for Hunter to skip work while her co-workers were attending the Xmas luncheon.
Interestingly, this state lawsuit, which alleges only violations of state and NYC Human Rights laws, was not filed until March 2011. Such begs the question -- What happened to Hunter's federal law claims, which would have been handled by the EEOC and the federal courts?
TERRI L. CHANDLER v. INFINITY INSURANCE GROUP was a 2011-14 Alabama federal court case in which a Jehovah's Witness named Terri Chandler alleged that she was forced to attend a company Christmas Party in November 2010, and that when she refused to eat, drink, or otherwise participate in the events of that party, she was later disciplined and eventually fired in June 2011. Chandler filed a complaint with the EEOC in November 2011, and filed this federal lawsuit in September 2012. In June 2014, the USDC summarily dismissed all of Chandler's claims.
Interestingly, Terri L. Chandler had been hired by Infinity Insurance Group in August 1992, and worked at various clerical positions thereafter. Chandler did not allege in her lawsuit that a single act of religious discrimination had occurred at Infinity until November 2010 -- when the "Christmas Party" allegedly was held off-site by Infinity. Infinity presented evidence that the "party" which Chandler described in her lawsuit was actually an Employee Appreciation party, which actually had been held in November 2009, not November 2010. Infinity further presented evidence that its' 2010 Christmas Party had been held on December 17, 2010, and at a different location than the location of the party alleged in Chandler's lawsuit. Infinity further alleged that Chandler had NOT even attended the December 2010 Christmas Party. Infinity stated that Chandler was fired in June 2011 after having made multiple clerical errors over the previous 12 months, and for violating certain other employment guidelines -- as more fully outlined in the USDC opinion.
CHARLES DIGIORGI v. DAVE'S SUPERMARKET INC is an ongoing 2012-13 Ohio federal court case. A 54 year-old Jehovah's Witness, named Charles DiGiorgi, of Euclid, Ohio, is alleging that he was illegally fired due to his WatchTower beliefs and practices by his Ohio employer. DiGiorgi alleges that the supermarket hired him as a baker on December 14, 2011, but thereafter quickly fired him on January 21, 2012, after DiGiorgi failed to attend a company Christmas party, and after DiGiorgi refused to decorate Christmas cakes. DiGiorgi is demanding $25,000.00 plus punitive damages for religious discrimination, wrongful firing, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
CHARLES DIGIORGI v. HCL COLLECTION SOLUTIONS is an ongoing Ohio federal lawsuit filed October 2012 alleging violation of the Fair Debt Collection Act.
In February 2015, a FOOD LION supermarket chain customer posted online their complaint that a Jehovah's Witness Employee in one of FOOD LION's bakery departments had refused to inscribe a cake with the words, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS", during a previous Christmas holiday season. Even after a manager instructed the Jehovah's Witness Employee to do as the customer had asked, the JW Employee waited until the manager walked away before again repeating to the customer their refusal to do so. The JW Employee handed the customer the plain cake and the frosting and told the customer that they should letter the cake themselves.
LILLIE QUINCE and KIM MORSON v. BELOIT COLLEGE was a 2012-13 Wisconsin federal lawsuit filed by two African-American Jehovah's Witnesses, named Lillie C. Quince and Kim L. Morson, who were "housekeepers" at the school. Notably, both Beloit College and the EEOC reportedly investigated the two JWs' allegations of racial discrimination and religious discrimination, and neither found such to be credible.
Quince and Morson allege that they each refused to attend a department party in JANUARY 2011, because the planned exchanging of gifts by co-workers "appeared" to be nothing but a belated Christmas Party. Quince and Morson allege that thereafter they were given work assignments nobody else wanted, and were refused help. Quince and Morson also allege that they were written up for unspecified "violations" for which "white co-workers" supposedly would not have been written up. Quince and Morson filed a complaint with the EEOC in September 2011. Quince and Morson further allege that a Supervisor then began confronting them about unspecified issues in front of their co-workers. Quince and Morson also allege that they were required to continue working while their co-workers attended the same annual department party in January 2012.
Kim Morson quit in February 2012, allegedly due to the College's failure to accommodate an alleged back injury. Lillie Quince quit in May 2013. The federal lawsuit sought compensatory damages of $300,000.00, unspecified punitive damages, back pay, future pay, and benefits. The USDC granted a stipulated dismissal in May 2013. Beloit College alleged that no settlement had been paid.
ROSALES v. LEE COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION is an ongoing 2011-12 Florida civil court case. Gerardo Rosales and Kristine Rosales are a married Jehovah's Witness couple who were employed as schoolteachers at Orange River Elementary, in Fort Myers, from 2008-09 through 2010-11. The Rosaleses were "untenured", and worked under annual contracts. When the Lee County Board of Education did not re-hire the Rosaleses in 2011-12, the Rosaleses initiated religious discrimination claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The Rosaleses' lawsuit alleges that the Principal at Orange River Elementary failed to abide by the terms of the Rosaleses' contracts, as well as the teachers union's collective bargaining agreement for evaluating teachers, which allegedly allowed the denial of tenure to Kristine Rosales. The Rosaleses further alleged that the "reduction in force" excuse used to deny the re-hiring of Gerardo Rosales was non-existent.
The Rosaleses allege that they had a close working relationship with the Principal, and received positive work performance reviews, until August 2010, when the couple requested time off to attend a WatchTower Convention. The Rosaleses allege that in December 2010 that the Principal informed all teachers that they were required to participate in an unidentified Christmas-related event. The Rosaleses sent an email to the Principal explaining that their WatchTower beliefs prevented their participation, and the Rosaleses failed to attend that event. The Rosaleses lawsuit alleges that the Principal thereafter would not engage in any meaningful interaction with the Rosaleses, and that Kristine Rosales was thereafter denied tenure, and neither Rosales was re-hired for 2011-12.
BRUCE BALDINI v. PAUL and INGRID PHILIPS D/B/A MARATHON FASTENERS & HARDWARE was a 2011 British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal case in which a Jehovah's Witness alleged religious and sex discrimination against his former small business employer. Although the case was ruled to be time-barred under Canadian law, Baldini's unproven allegations do provide a good lesson for small business owners who have not previously had reason to precisely hone their employee management skills, and especially for small employers who are not familiar with Jehovah's Witnesses in general, or the specific Jehovah's Witness whom they are contemplating hiring.
Baldini began his employment in May 2008, and was terminated in February 2011. Employer claimed Baldini was initially "laid off" for personal use of the internet during working hours and insubordination, but then fired after he began making defamatory and false accusations against the Philips. Employer denied that Baldini's termination had anything to do with his religion.
Bruce Baldini filed his discrimination complaint in June 2011. Baldini either had an excellent recollection, or he had maintained a written log of slights by his employer for some anticipated reason.
1. Baldini alleged that in November 2008 that during a discussion about an upcoming holiday that Paul Philips (probably jokingly) mentioned that Baldini should not be allowed to have the day off because he did not celebrate holidays because of his religion.
2. In December 2008, Paul Philips made some sort of remark to the effect that he liked to give Baldini a "hard time" regarding his not celebrating holidays due to his religion.
3. In April-May 2009, Baldini asked for a day off for religious reasons, which was granted. However, Baldini alleged that Paul Philips "indicated" that Baldini "would pay for the consequences."
4. In June 2009, while he was using the restroom, Ingrid Philips "banged on the door and told him to get out." Baldini alleged she later "rudely" expressed her anger at having been left to handle customers. Baldini says he was given a letter of reprimand, including limits on his bathroom use, the next day.
5. In December 2009, Baldini and his JW Wife were guests of the Philips for dinner at a restaurant, when Paul Philips "offended" them by stating, "I should be a Jehovah so I can drink as much as these two", after Baldini's JW Wife ordered a second bottle of wine.
6. Date unknown, once during a conversation about "homosexuality", Paul Philips inquired about Baldini's and the Jehovah's Witnesses' view regarding such. After Baldini explained his/their "negative" views of "homosexuality", Paul Philips, in a undoubtedly joking manner, "invaded his personal space and pressed against him in a sexually suggestive way." Baldini says he felt violated, uncomfortable, and embarrassed.
7. Baldini says after he returned to work from a doctor's appointment, Paul Philips (again probably jokingly) asked him if he had spent the time riding his bicycle.
8. During the first week of December 2010, Baldini notified the Philips that he would not be attending the store's "year-end staff dinner". Baldini was repeatedly offended by both Philips after they repeatedly attempted to reassure Baldini that the event was not a Christmas party and would not offend Baldini's religion.
9. Baldini alleged that he was terminated on Friday, February 8, 2011, "without reason or notice".
There has to be an educational lesson for Employers in there somewhere!!!
In mid-December 2009, parents living in impoverished Floyd County, Kentucky, which is located in the Appalachian mountains of far eastern Kentucky, were angered when a Jehovah's Witness school bus driver, named Deanna Boyd (a/k/a DeeDee Boyd), passed out copies of a self-composed ANTI-CHRISTMAS and ANTI-BIRTHDAYS "letter" to all the students who rode her school bus. DeeDee Boyd's letter instructed parents not to send Boyd any Xmas gifts nor Xmas cards because, "I do not celebrate Christmas because I have research (sic) the beginnings of the holiday & it has false teachings & lies associated with it." Deanna Boyd's letter then went on to include a lengthy summary of all the reasons that the WatchTower Society forbids Jehovah's Witnesses from celebrating Christmas. Boyd's letter also took time to demonize birthday celebrations. Boyd's letter ended with a series of questions to the parents, including, "Do you know how serious lying is to God?", along with Boyd's answer that "Satan is the father of a lie," and "God will destroy those speaking a lie." The local Board of Education began an investigation into Deanna Boyd's actions. Outcome unknown.
CLAYTON D. ROSIE v. EQUIMAX LENDING was a 2006-09 Indiana Civil Rights Commission case, which involved a male Jehovah's Witness named Clayton D. Rosie. Clayton Rosie was employed as Marketing Director at Equimax's Fort Wayne, Indiana office. In December 2005, Rosie was fired due to "not being a team player" after Rosie refused to attend a company Christmas Party due to his Jehovah's Witness religion. Thereafter, Rosie filed this claim with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission. In August 2009, in a judgment by default, Clayton Rosie was awarded $38,730.96 for his wrongful termination. That amount represented the difference in Rosie earnings, unemployment compensation, etc. for the 17 month period after his termination until Rosie was able to find a job paying as much or more than his employment at Equimax.
E.E.O.C. v. CONTINENTAL BAKERY was an extremely interesting 1997 California federal court case in which the E.E.O.C. decided to prosecute the case themselves, rather than make the "victim" hire their own attorney and prosecute the case themselves. Generally, the EEOC does this only in what they believe to be the most outrageous cases.
In 1993, a Jehovah's Witness, named Dawn Wolfe, worked for Viktor Bene's Continental Bakery, at their Westlake location. As the Christmas holiday neared, bakery employees were given what the EEOC described as a "festive" apron to wear while on the job. Dawn Wolfe refused to wear the new apron, and was fired. Wolfe thereafter filed a complaint with the EEOC, and this federal court case ensued.
So, what did the EEOC find so outrageous about Wolfe's case? The only thing that Dawn Wolfe found objectionable about the apron was that it was the color "red". The evil apron was solid red. The apron did not have a single decoration on it. No Xmas decorations or symbols. Nothing. The apron was "red".
Wolfe's EEOC attorney, Pamela Thomason, stated; "This case is egregious because of how easy it would be to accommodate her. She could wear the regular apron." The only thing "egregious" about this case are the actions of Wolfe and the EEOC in trying to make employers kowtow to the most insignificant whims of the people to whom they provide paychecks. Outcome unknown.
EEOC v. COMMUNITY TRANSPORT SERVICES was a 2009-11 South Carolina federal court case. Suing on behalf of a former female Jehovah's Witness Employee, named Dale Morant, E.E.O.C. alleged that in 2006 that Community Transport Services LLC, a regional ambulance service, fired the female E.M.T. after she refused to hand out advertising materials as a company representative at the Prince of Orange Mall, in Orangeburg, S.C, because a Halloween carnival was then being held at the Mall. The EEOC lawsuit sought back pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for Dale Morant. EEOC also asked the court to order the company to stop discriminating against employees. Dale Morant had initially filed a complaint with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC), which investigates such allegations for violations of state law. It is not known whether Dale Morant attempted to sue CTS under state laws.
Community Transport Services LLC was sold to a competitor in November 2007, yet the EEOC still went after the former owner for money. Possibly indicating that that former owner never responded to this lawsuit, in September 2011, the USDC issued a DEFAULT JUDGMENT awarding Dale Morant $23,435.02 as back pay and $10,000.00 as compensatory damages for Dale Morant's "emotional distress". Our guess is that this judgment has never been collected.
We were hoping that this lawsuit would go to trial. There was no reported indication that CTS had asked Morant to dress-up or to do anything else which would be considered participation in the Halloween carnival. Apparently, CTS simply was taking advantage of the Mall event to promote its services to the local community. We were hoping that CTS's attorney would ask Dale Morant if she would have refused to travel to the Mall and treat a mall employee or mall patron who was injured or became ill at the Mall during the Halloween carnival. We were hoping that CTS's attorney would ask Dale Morant if Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to shop at Malls or other retail stores during holiday seasons when Malls are decorated for Halloween and other holidays.
EEOC v. THE ADVOCATE MESSENGER ET AL is a highly amusing case. An African-American Jehovah's Witness, named Donovan James Moore, then age 38, of Stanford, Kentucky, filed a federal lawsuit in 2000-01 alleging religious discrimination against his newspaper employer in Danville, Kentucky. It seems that the newspaper had historically held an annual combination Christmas and Company Awards banquet. Citing his beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness, Donovan J. Moore informed his employer that he could not attend the 1998 banquet. Since Donovan Moore was a District Manager, the newspaper agreed that Moore could skip everything but the awards portion of the event. Next year, Donovan Moore had been promoted to Home Delivery Manager. Part of the new job responsibilities was to organize the annual banquet. Moore did so, but then refused to even attend the awards portion. Donovan Moore was fired, and he subsequently filed a federal lawsuit.
The District Court summarily dismissed Donovan James Moore's lawsuit citing Moore's failure to show that the carrier banquet conflicted with his personal beliefs. The court noted that Donovan Moore had taken charge of planning the party. Donovan J. Moore had secured the location for the party, selected carriers to receive awards, and distributed invitations labeling the banquet as a carrier Christmas party. The court wrote: "Given the options to avoid any reference to Christmas, Moore chose not to do so. Rather, Moore hoisted himself with his own petard, ensnaring himself in a Christmas party of his own design."
See also: KENTUCKY v. DONOVAN JAMES MOORE (2015).
SHIRLEY RICHARDSON v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY was a 1999-2004 federal employee EEOC decision which involved an African-American Jehovah's Witness female named Shirley Richardson, who was employed in the Treasury Department's Collection Group 5200. In her October 1999 internal agency complaint, Shirley Richardson alleged that she was discriminated against on the FIVE BASES of her race (African-American), color (dark), religion (Jehovah's Witness), sex (female), and age (60). With regard to Richardson's claim of religious discrimination, she considered it harassment, in December 1996, when her Manager renamed the annual "Christmas Party" a "Holiday Party", while publicly mentioning that Richardson did not celebrate Christmas. Richardson also considered it harassment, in November 1998, when her Manager scheduled a "field call" with Richardson for the day before Thanksgiving, because Richardson "did not celebrate holidays". After a full investigation, the agency found that there had been no discrimination against Richardson, and on appeal, the EEOC affirmed.
EEOC v. BELK was a 2010-1 North Carolina federal court case. A 49 year-old female Jehovah's Witness named Myra Jones-Abid was employed from May 2008 until November 2008, at a Belk's Department Store, located in the Crabtree Valley Mall, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Myra Jones-Abid worked in Belk's GIFT WRAP department wrapping birthday and holiday gift purchases. However, when all gift wrappers were instructed to wear a Santa Hat and Apron during the Xmas holiday season, Myra Jones-Abid refused. Myra Jones-Abid was terminated that same day. Myra Jones-Abid sued Belk Inc. for back pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief. EEOC alleged that while the vast majority of Jehovah's Witnesses would never accept employment as a "gift wrapper continuously wrapping birthday and holiday gifts", Myra Jones-Abid's "personal religious beliefs" allowed her to do so, thus the only legal issue was their client's personal religious belief against wearing the Santa Hat and Apron. In March 2011, Belk settled the case with EEOC by paying $55,000.00, and agreeing to regularly training employees on the issue of employment discrimination, and submitting periodic reports to EEOC on the issue.
MERAZ v. JO-ANN STORES was a 2004 California court case which involved a 57 year-old female Jehovah's Witness Employee, named Donna Meraz, who alleged religious and age discrimination, as well as harassment and retaliation, after her Employer reduced her scheduled work hours. Donna Meraz first filed charges with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing in December 2002, and eventually filed a lawsuit in state court before such was moved to federal court. In April 2004, the USDC summarily dismissed all of Meraz's claims against the Employer, stating in part:
"Plaintiff first joined Jo-Ann Stores ... on May 24, 2000 at the Porter Ranch, California retail outlet. ... . Plaintiff joined JAS as a 'Team Member' -- an entry level position Plaintiff has maintained throughout her entire three-year career at JAS. ... When hired, Plaintiff had minimal and dated retailing experience, ...
"The employment application directed Plaintiff to indicate the days she would be available to work. Plaintiff left Sunday blank. Plaintiff insisted that due to her religious orientation, ... she not be assigned to work Sundays, a demand for special treatment that Defendant respected. ... ...
"Several written disciplinary notices were issued to Plaintiff during the first two years of Plaintiff's JAS career. ... JAS Operations Manager ... issued written notices of deficiencies to Plaintiff for: (1) multiple cash register shortages; (2)transacting her own employee purchases in violation of company policy requiring management to preside over such transactions; (3) and overusing the cash register's so-called 'quantity key' to transact customer sales. ... Additionally, before the written discipline was issued regarding the quantity key overuse, [JAS Manager] had spoken to Plaintiff about her excessive use. ... Each written disciplinary action warned that further disciplinary action could be taken against Plaintiff, including termination, unless the noted areas of concern improved.
"The disciplinary notices undoubtedly contributed to Meraz's marginal performance evaluations in 2001 and 2002. Like many employers, JAS rated Plaintiff's performance on a numerical point scale. Plaintiff's scores were just one point above an evaluation of 'does not consistently meet' or 'falls below' expectations. ... Notwithstanding her disciplinary warnings, and marginal performance evaluations, Plaintiff was granted annual hourly pay increases in the summer of 2001 and 2002. ... Plaintiff signed for both her 2001 and 2002 performance evaluations, including the noted hourly increases in pay, and not once claimed or alleged that her newly determined hourly rates of pay were a byproduct of ageist or religious bigotry, ... .... ...
"Plaintiff, who is a Jehovah's Witness, refused to partake in 2001 Halloween festivities at the store, including electing not to dress up in costume, for religious reasons. ... When Plaintiff elected not to participate in such activities in 2001, she did not explain that her decision was related to her faith, and admits that she did not bear the brunt of any harassment, retaliation, or reduction in scheduled hours for exercising her choice not to dress up for Halloween.
"Plaintiff claims that no later than September 29, 2002, she again made perfectly clear her intention not to participate in the 2002 Halloween festivities. ... ... ...
"In about early November 2002, [JAS Manager] began to experience what she perceived to be intentional insubordination and belligerence by Plaintiff. ... The same overuse of the store register's 'quantity key' occurred. ... When [JAS Manager] once saw Plaintiff abandon her register post, and warned her against leaving it unattended, Plaintiff told [JAS Manager] 'I don't want to deal with you.' ... Furthermore, Plaintiff ignored [JAS Manager] directive to have cashiers form two lines of customers during busy times. ... In turn, [JAS Manager] reduced Plaintiffs scheduled workweek hours, ... .... ...
"Plaintiff claims to have suffered, at the hands of [JAS Manager], such intolerable practices as being assigned to gather shopping carts from the store's parking lot, on four occasions being asked to clean the store's restrooms, once having her pockets checked when departing the store, and occasionally being disciplined by [JAS Manager], who exclaimed'speed it up' in front of customers when Plaintiff's customer lines were backed up. ... ... ...
K.C.H.R. v. LESCO MFG was a 1987 Kentucky court case involving a Jehovah's Witness named Cari Hardin, which worked its way through several Kentucky courts and commissions. In December 1983, Lesco Design and Manufacturing Co. Inc., of La Grange, Kentucky, instructed all personnel to answer the telephone with the greeting, "Merry Christmas, Lesco." Cari Hardin immediately informed the president that the greeting would compromise her beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness. He informed her that if she could not answer the phone as he instructed, he would write her a check. Hardin also consulted with her immediate supervisor and with the vice-president of the company. Both informed her that she must do as she was told. Later that day, Hardin was given a final check and she departed.
Cari Hardin filed a claim for unemployment benefits, in which she claimed to have been discharged. Lesco responded that she quit. In January 1984, the insurance examiner denied her benefits and found that Lesco's request was reasonable and that Hardin had voluntarily left her employment without just cause. The examiner's decision was not appealed, as Hardin found new employment in January. In March 1984, Cari Hardin filed her complaint with the Commission on Human Rights alleging religious discrimination. The commission found that Lesco had discriminated against Hardin and ordered it to cease its unlawful practice and to pay her back wages of $800.00 plus $250.00 as compensatory damage. The appeals court upheld such, including these informative legal comments:
"In order to establish a prima facie case of religious discrimination, one must prove that (1) he has a bona fide belief that compliance with an employment requirement is contrary to his religious faith; (2) he informed his employer about the conflict; and (3) he was discharged because of his refusal to comply with the employment requirement. ...
"Hardin testified that saying the greeting 'Merry Christmas' to another person, at any time or in any manner, would be considered by her as a violation of her religious beliefs. She was supported in this fact by the testimony of Robert Shane, an elder and member of the governing body of Hardin's Jehovah's Witnesses congregation. Hardin also supported her claim from exhibits taken from publications of Jehovah's Witnesses concerning the prohibition against the observance of Christmas.
"There is no question concerning the fact that Lesco's officers and Hardin's immediate supervisor were informed of the conflict between the instructions and Hardin's religious beliefs. Hardin sought to obtain some accommodation, but Lesco offered none. The record also appears clear that Lesco could have accommodated Hardin's religious beliefs without undue hardship to its business. This could have been accomplished by not requiring her to answer the phone during this season or she could have merely answered with the greeting 'Good Morning, Lesco'.
"Once a prima facie case has been established, as in Hardin's situation, the respondent, Lesco, must then prove that an accommodation to the claimant's beliefs will result in some undue hardship. This was not done. ... [Past precedent] ruled that more than a de minimis cost in the form of either lost efficiency or wages constitutes undue hardship which will relieve an employer of its duty to accommodate the religious beliefs of its employees. ...
"... An overwhelming majority of citizens in this country observe the Christmas season as either a religious or national holiday, but the record clearly indicates that such observation and celebration is against the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses. While many people would consider that the mere statement or greeting of 'Merry Christmas' would not endorse Christmas, any more than a Christian wishing a Jew a 'Happy Hanukkah' endorses the Jewish faith, Hardin nevertheless satisfactorily proved that her statement would compromise her beliefs. It would not have been unreasonably difficult for Lesco to have accommodated Hardin in her beliefs, and the commission so found. If the commission's findings are based on statutes, law, and substantial evidence of probative value, its determinations must be supported."
GREEN v. SAKS FIFTH AVENUE was a 1999-2000 Maryland federal court case which involved a 31 year-old African-American Jehovah's Witness, named Tamara R. Green. After refusing to dress up as a "Hershey Kiss" for Halloween, Green was transferred from Saks Fifth Avenue Distribution Company's Human Resources Department to their warehouse. Thereafter, Green filed a religious discrimination lawsuit in federal District Court. In 2000, the USDC summarily dismissed Tamara Green's lawsuit - evidently because the employer had simply transferred Green to a position in which she would not be required to dress up for holidays.
In December 2002, a Brooklyn, New York Jehovah's Witness Kindergarten Teacher, named Ingrid Attio, who taught at Public School 179 in Kensington, was brought up on "disciplinary charges", after she refused to put up a multi-cultural holiday bulletin board outside her classroom. Outcome unknown.
The eloquent schoolteacher told a reporter, "It is stupid. If I wasn't teaching the children their letters or their numbers, yes, then discipline me. But for this? It is not normal. ... I don't think I should put up a Christmas tree. It is just pagan stuff. ... No one can be made to put up a Christmas tree. This is America."
Interestingly, Ingrid Attio, who had been a schoolteacher for 25 years, stated that she did not ask her students to draw Easter bunnies, Halloween jack-o'-lanterns,Christmas trees, nor what is often standard fare in schools for any holiday. One can't help but wonder how long this had been the case. Possibly, Attio was a recent convert to the JWs, especially given the following.
An unnamed school official charged that Ingrid Attio was "no victim". Instead, Ingrid Attio allegedly was forcing her own WatchTower beliefs on her students. The school official supposedly knew such because the issue came to light after, "We had angry parents asking why their children were told Christmas trees and a creche were barbaric pagan rituals."
PALMER v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO was a 1978-79 Illinois federal appellate court decision which involved a Jehovah's Witness Teacher, named Joethelia Palmer. Palmer was hired at the Field School in September, 1976, as a full-time non-tenured teacher. Prior to commencement of the 1976-77 school year, Palmer visited with Florence Paskind, the school's Principal, to inform her that due to her sincerely held religious convictions, Palmer would not teach "anything having to do with love of country, the flag and other patriotic matters." In deference to those convictions, Paskind met with Palmer and instituted certain procedures to accommodate her.
During the course of the school year, Paskind permitted a "team teacher", a student teacher and, in certain instances, parent volunteers to instruct the children on matters of patriotism. For various reasons, all of those methods proved infeasible. During this period, Joethelia Palmer refused to lead activities related to holidays like Columbus Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. At times, when no other aid was available, she allowed her five-year-old students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance on their own. According to Paskind, the results of such a practice were chaotic. Palmer's teaching behavior failed in other respects. She overemphasized or ignored certain areas, failed to use toys provided, failed to prepare adequate lesson plans, and was otherwise disorganized. During the school year, Paskind received complaints from parents concerning the fact that their children were not receiving the same instruction that other classes had received, and that if Palmer were to remain teachings at the school, they would hesitate to enroll their children in kindergarten there.
Joethelia Palmer was eventually terminated, and thereafter sought an injunction claiming a violation of her First Amendment rights. The USDC granted the School Board a summary judgment. On Palmer's appeal, the USCA affirmed, stating in part:
Plaintiff states the issue to be whether or not a public school teacher in her classes has the right to refuse to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance, the singing of patriotic songs, and the celebration of certain national holidays when to do so is claimed to violate her religious principles. The issue is more correctly stated to be whether or not a public school teacher is free to disregard the prescribed curriculum concerning patriotic matters when to conform to the curriculum she claims would conflict with her religious principles.... ...
Plaintiff in seeking to conduct herself in accordance with her religious beliefs neglects to consider the impact on her students who are not members of her faith. Because of her religious beliefs, plaintiff would deprive her students of an elementary knowledge and appreciation of our national heritage. She considers it to be promoting idolatry, it was explained during oral argument, to teach, for instance, about President Lincoln and why we observe his birthday. However, it would apparently not offend her religious views to teach about some of our past leaders less proudly regarded. There would only be provided a distorted and unbalanced view of our country's history. Parents have a vital interest in what their children are taught. Their representatives have in general prescribed a curriculum. There is a compelling state interest in the choice and adherence to a suitable curriculum for the benefit of our young citizens and society. It cannot be left to individual teachers to teach what they please. Plaintiff's right to her own religious views and practices remains unfettered, but she has no constitutional right to require others to submit to her views and to forego a portion of their education they would otherwise be entitled to enjoy. In this unsettled world, although we hope it will not come to pass, some of the students may be called upon in some way to defend and protect our democratic system and Constitutional rights, including plaintiff's religious freedom. That will demand a bit of patriotism.
Joethelia Palmer appealed the USCA's adverse decision to the Supreme Court of the United States. However, after review, SCOTUS announced, in January 1980, that it would not even bother considering Palmer's appeal.
BETTY R. TOLER v. NEW HANOVER COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION was a 1978-85 North Carolina federal court case which involved an African-American female Jehovah's Witness elementary school teacher named Betty R. Toler. Betty Toler first filed a "religious discrimination" complaint with the EEOC in 1978, and thereafter individually sued the New Hanover County Board of Education after the EEOC dismissed the complaint and issued a Right-To-Sue Letter, in 1983. Toler acted as her own attorney before the USDC after she could not find any attorney to take her case. Outcome unknown.
Betty Toler had previously been employed as a "Special Education Teacher" by the Pender County Board of Education from 1966 to 1977. The circumstances of Toler's "resignation" from that position is not known, but when Toler applied for a position with the New Hanover County Board of Education in 1977 and 1978, Toler's former employer informed the prospective employer that Toler had a "bad attitude" and had received "poor evaluations". Betty Toler was described as "sullen" and "stubborn". Toler also had refused to allow her students to participate in any classroom holiday activities or celebrations because of her own WatchTower beliefs and practices. Betty Toler reportedly had once even been reprimanded for selling WatchTower literature to her students, and had been forced to refund that money after parents' complained.
At trial, the New Hanover County Board of Education further claimed that Betty Toler had not had a good job interview, and that an essay submitted along with her job application was not coherent nor grammatically correct. Toler had a degree from Winston-Salem State University, but her GPA was barely passing -- 2.27. Toler's score on the National Teachers Exam had been 20 points below the minimum needed for certification.
BEIN v. WARRENSBURG CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT was a 1976 New York case. Claudia S. Bein was hired as a kindergarten teacher in January 1973. In October 1975, Claudia Bein held a meeting with all her "room mothers" to announce that she had converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses, and as a result, Bein stated that she would no longer participate in patriotic or holiday activities. Bein told the room mothers that if they wanted such activities to continue that they would have to perform all the duties that Bein had previously performed in connection with such. (Readers should recall that at that time the WatchTower Society was predicting Armageddon to occur in October 1975.)
Bein's announcement created quite an uproar. Claudia Bein was notified by the School Superintendent that she was being terminated effective at the end of the year, because of numerous complaints received from parents. Bein argued that her actions had no impact on the students, because the room mothers could continue the "forbidden" activities. The Superintendent pointed out, as probably had the parents, that Bein was teaching their children WatchTower religious beliefs by default, in that the young impressionable children observed Bein refusing to participate in certain activities, and wondered why.
Claudia Bein received support from the New York State United Teachers, who assisted her with filing a complaint with the EEOC. Bein also filed a formal complaint with the New York Education Commission, which proceeded to rule in Bein's favor. The State Education Commissioner ordered the School District to retain Bein through the Spring semester and the following Fall semester, plus required a 60 day notice if Bein was then to be terminated in December 1976. The Commissioner also indicated that if Bein was terminated that they would closely scrutinize such to determine whether any of Bein's constitutional rights had been violated.
Those NY Idiots stated that Bein could not be fired for exercising her "freedom of religion" without a showing that her actions caused "substantial disruption" in the classroom. The Commission indicated that the local Board needed to observe Bein for two semesters to determine such. The Commission also indicated that so long as Bein taught the words to the Pledge, and allowed such to be recited by her students, that that was all that was necessary. And, so long as the room mothers performed all the other duties with regard to holidays, etc., that there was no negative impact. The Commission even stated that Christmas gift exchanges were a "religious" activity. Unknown what happened in Fall 1976.
VELEZ-SOTOMAYOR v. PROGRESO CASH AND CARRY, INC. was a federal lawsuit filed in Puerto Rico in 2001 by a Jehovah's Witness named Maricely Velez-Sotomayor. Velez-Sotomayor was employed as a part-time cashier at a supermarket. The employer required employees to wear Santa hats during the 1999 Christmas holiday season. Velez-Sotomayor refused based on her Jehovah's Witness beliefs. She was suspended on November 30 until the holiday season ended. She filed a charge before the Anti-Discrimination Unit against Progreso on December 9, 1999, alleging discrimination based upon religion. Velez was declared eligible for unemployment benefits on December 22, 1999. Velez returned to Progreso after Three Kings Day (January 6, 2000) and requested work hours. She was informed that she was no longer needed as they were in a slow season. Velez filed a federal lawsuit in May 2001, pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, several applicable Puerto Rico laws. In 2003, the USDC denied the employer's motion to dismiss, so this case evidently went to trial, if not settled prior to. Results unknown.
JONES v. C.H.E. PHARMACY was a 2001 Canadian case (laws are similar to those in the U.S.), in which a Jehovah's Witness named Raymond Jones worked for Shoppers Drug Mart from 1982 to 1998. Jones' personal interpretation of WatchTower teachings allowed him to stock shelves with Christmas merchandise, but forbade him from decorating the store for Christmas. For sixteen years, his employer accommodated his religious beliefs.
However, in November 1998, his supervisor asked him to hang a garland. Jones complied, but later stated that he felt sick inside. A few days later, the manager asked him to hang a Santa Claus decoration. This time Jones refused, claiming that his religious beliefs prohibited him from doing so. Five days later, he refused the same supervisor's request to set out six potted poinsettias in front of the store, which would serve as combination decorations and merchandise for sale.
That same day, Jones was called into a meeting with the owner of the store who told him to set out the poinsettias or face termination. Jones refused, and walked out and never returned. Jones then filed a religious discrimination complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal. The Tribunal ruled that Jones had been constructively fired by the owner's ultimatum, and that Jones had suffered illegal religious discrimination. Jones was awarded $21,243.56 in lost wages; $4710.40 in lost vacation time;$1142.00 in expenses; and $3500.00 in damages caused to Jones' feelings, dignity, and self-respect.
WATSON v. ADECCO EMPLOYMENT SERVICES was a 2000-03 federal lawsuit filed in Florida by two African-American and Hispanic Jehovah's Witnesses named Violet Watson and Pamella Marriot. In November 1999, Watson and Marriot were placed by a temporary employment placement service as cafeteria servers in a Brevard County school. In December 1999, Christmas decorations were put up and Christmas music was played in the School's cafeteria. Along with the other cafeteria employees, Watson and Marriot were instructed to wear Santa hats as part of their work uniforms. When they refused, the placement service negotiated with the School Board for an "accommodation" to wear red baseball caps instead of the Santa hats. (Watson and Marriot also complained about the Xmas decorations and music.) However, on the day the accommodation was to take effect, each of the JWs received a phone call from the placement service advising them not to report to work at the school, because "they don't want you anymore." The service also allegedly told the two Jehovah's Witnesses that the placement service would place them in other positions after the holidays, or in a place that did not celebrate Christmas.
Watson and Marriot each separately filed a federal lawsuit against both the placement agency and the School Board alleging both racial (later dropped) and religious discrimination, but later agreed to consolidate. However, the District Court summarily dismissed the consolidated lawsuit because the School Board had agreed to an "accommodation", and the placement agency was not their employer, and otherwise had done nothing actionable under Title VII.
IN RE CLALLAM COUNTY HOSPITAL DISTRICT was a 1995 Washington state arbitration which involved a Jehovah's Witness Employee who refused to erect a Christmas tree. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the JW Employee. The Hospital failed to reasonably accommodate the JW Employee's religious beliefs, since other similar employees were available who could have performed this task.
EEOC v. RAZZOO'S CAJUN CAFE was a 2006-7 Texas federal lawsuit which involved a 19 year-old Jehovah's Witness in Mesquite, Texas named Sabrina Balentine. Balentine allegedly was fired by Razzoo's Cajun Cafe for refusing to sing "Happy Birthday" to customers. One local news report stated in part: "Balentine, who is a Jehovah's Witness, said such celebrations are forbidden by her religion. According to a news release issued by the EEOC Thursday, Balentine said she offered to cover the other waitresses' tables while her co-workers sang for the customers." Another local news report stated in part: "As a Jehovah Witness, Balentine said she can't sing the birthday song. 'Birthday celebrations, we believe, are spoken of against in the bible, and holiday celebrations ...,' said John Priester, Jehovah's Witness elder. ... But Balentine said her bosses would not compromise. They suggested, '"Could you just clap and smile along with everybody else near the table and not actually sing the birthday song?"' Costas [attorney] said. 'But even that is contrary to the beliefs of her religion.'"
EEOC filed a federal lawsuit for back pay and punitive damages on Balentine's behalf. That lawsuit was settled in June 2007 for the amount of $38,750.00. Razzoos was also required to establish a company-wide anti-discrimination program, which will be actively monitored by the EEOC for two years or longer.
It is only rumored that the restaurant chain may also be sued by JW patrons because JWs do not receive free cake as do other Razoo patrons. Maybe Razoos can develop a JW-friendly "non-birthday cake" which can be given free to all JW patrons who request such? Razoos should be cautioned that such a cake would only be acceptable to JWs if the flour is made from "miracle wheat".
A 1997 New York unemployment compensation case is very informative. A Jehovah's Witness worked as a waitress from November 1994 through April 1995. When the JW Employee was hired, she told the employer that she did not celebrate holidays because of her religious beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness. The employer accommodated her restrictions. She was not required to wear a holiday hat on New Year's Eve, as did other staff. On her last day at work, claimant saw a cake with "Happy Birthday" written on it in the employer's kitchen. She quickly informed the employer that she could not serve the cake, since her religious beliefs prohibited her from participating in birthday celebrations. She suggested that another server handle the party group, or at least the serving of the cake. The employer ended up serving the cake that evening, but explained to the JW Employee that he could not accommodate claimant's religious beliefs on this matter in the future. The restaurant was small and operated at times with the JW Employee as the only server, and the employer was not always available to help out. The employer had other birthday parties scheduled, and the JW Employee was on notice that she would have to be prepared to serve these customers. The JW Employee told the employer she would have to quit.
Unemployment benefits were initially granted, but the employer objected, and won on appeal. That appeal was then reversed based on this reasoning: The JW Employee had advised the employer at the time of hire that she would not perform specific tasks because of her religious beliefs. The claimant took reasonable steps to protect her employment by suggesting alternative arrangements to the employer. Unemployment benefits cannot be denied because of conduct mandated by religious belief. The JW Employee voluntarily quit her job with good cause.
CALHOUN JEWELERS LLC v. UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD OF REVIEW
was a 2010 Pennsylvania state court decision which was widely reported because it REVERSED the Pennsylvania UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD's earlier ruling in favor of the JW Employee and against the Employer. However, this unique decision rested on the unique facts of this case, which were somewhat similar to the "Donovan Moore"
case summarized below.
The Jehovah's Witness Employee, named Trista Reichman, was employed at Calhoun Jewelers as a part-time sales associate from July 2006 until April 2008. At the time she was hired, Reichman informed Calhoun Jewelers that it was against her WatchTower beliefs to celebrate birthdays, Christmas, or any other holidays. Thereafter, when other Calhoun Jewelers employees' birthdays were celebrated, Reichman refused to participate in the singing of "Happy Birthday". Curiously, though, Reichman would eat and drink food and beverages brought for the celebration -- with the exception of the birthday cake itself. Further, Reichman sold the store's birthday and holiday themed jewelry, and occasionally Reichman wrapped such items as birthday and holiday presents.
In March 2008, Trista Reichman was told that Calhoun Jewelers was going to start sending birthday cards and anniversary cards to its' clients. Reichman was asked to make a computer template using Microsoft Word for both anniversary and birthday cards, which could then be printed onto Calhoun Jewelers' stationery. Reichman constructed the WORD template. However, Patrick Young, the store's goldsmith, told Reichman that "when the cards were to be written, to keep an eye on who the clients were so personal messages could be written inside to personalize the cards."
Reichman objected, and later testified:
"I didn't mind; I understood that the cards were for a general advertisement for the company, but when it came to personally writing the cards, that's when it was putting my own thoughts and my ... own handwriting inside the cards, and that's where my conscience drew the line. I knew that because I don't celebrate birthdays as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, that it would be displeasing to my god if I were to do that."
[Reichman] also testified that she talked to the Sales Manager, Michael Lamiaux, and explained why she would not write the cards:
"He asked me why I wouldn't write the birthday cards as well as the anniversary, and I said that I don't celebrate birthdays, so I wouldn't be comfortable writing them. And then he said that it was ridiculous because I wasn't signing my name to them, they were for the store, and they weren't from me. And I said still that I would not feel comfortable writing them. And he pushed it further, and I said but I still will not write those cards."
Although it is unclear as to who said such to Reichman,Reichman was told that "she needed to make a choice". Reichman took that statement as demanding that she write "personal messages" on the birthday cards, or quit, so Reichman "shook hands with the employer, said I've enjoyed working for you, and voluntarily left the job."
Calhoun Jewelers later alleged that the only personalization of the birthday cards asked of Reichman was for her to handwrite on the cards: "Stop in for a jewelry cleaning." Reichman denied that she was ever told that such was the "personal message" to be handwritten on the cards.
The UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BOARD ruled that Reichman established that she had cause of a "necessitous and compelling nature" for voluntarily quitting her employment:
"The claimant is a Jehovah's Witness. The claimant's sincere religious beliefs prohibited her from celebrating birthdays. The claimant did not want to write personal notes in birthday cards to clients because of her religious beliefs. The Board concludes that the claimant had good cause for her refusal to write personal notes in birthday cards[:] her religious beliefs. Therefore, the claimant had good cause to quit her employment ... ."
However, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania REVERSED the Board's decision, stating in part:
Employer asserts that Claimant failed to establish what kind of message Employer wanted her to write on the card and whether she was required to put her own thoughts on the message. Employer also asserts that Claimant did not explain how writing a "canned message" would be offensive to her religious beliefs and that she failed to act with common sense and make reasonable efforts to preserve her employment.
While this Court is cognizant of Claimant's religious beliefs, this Court does not agree with the Board. It is Claimant's burden to demonstrate that she had a necessitous and compelling reason for quitting her employment based on her sincerely held religious beliefs.
Claimant established that she had sincerely held religious beliefs. However, the Board erred when it determined that the writing of a "personal message" on the card violated Claimant's religious beliefs when Claimant failed to describe the "personal message." Claimant had the opportunity to articulate what the message was that she was instructed to write and to establish how that violated her religion, but she failed to do so. Further, although Claimant testified that Patrick Young (Young), the goldsmith, instructed her to write personal messages on the cards, she did not establish whether Young had supervisory authority over her or was just making a suggestion. Claimant admitted that she prepared the card on the Microsoft Word template and that she sold jewelry for birthday gifts and wrapped the gifts. With regards to the birthday cards, even Claimant and [Jehovah's Witness Elder] [John] Schwankweiler admitted that they were used for advertising. Claimant failed to establish how her job duties conflicted with her sincerely held religious beliefs. Consequently, she failed to establish a necessitous and compelling reason for quitting her employment. ... Accordingly, this Court reverses.
Don't be surprised if Trista Reichman appeals this lower court decision and it is reversed by the appellate court.
In its list of successful lawsuits, a Texas law firm includes a case which they "settled confidentially" for an undisclosed amount. The unnamed female client was employed as a clerk at a retail store. The store told her that she had to wear a costume for St. Patrick's Day. She explained that her Jehovah's Witnesses religious beliefs precluded her from celebrating holidays or wearing any paraphernalia in celebration of a holiday. The clerk was told that she had to wear it or she was fired. She refused and was fired. This lawsuit followed.
A webpage discussing discrimination scenarios (which were supposedly based on actual occurrences) mentions the case of a custodian who was a Jehovah's Witness who refused to set up tables and chairs in a conference room being decorated for a Christmas dinner. He explained to his supervisor that his religion prohibited him from participating in Christmas or other "pagan" holiday celebrations. If that custodian was penalized in any way, he would have a cause of action against that employer.
COLORADO v. GOAD, COLORADO v. KEMP, and COLORADO v. BONES were related 2004-5 Colorado criminal court cases. On December 13, 2004, three "overage juvenile" Jehovah's Witnesses, named Levi Bones, 23, Richard Kemp, 26, and Nathan Goad, 29, vandalized a 9 foot tall Menorah, which had been erected in Aspen's Paepcke Park as part of the local Jewish community's celebration of Hanukkah. Per Jewish tradition, the lights on the Menorah are lit individually during each of the eight days of Hanukkah. The ignorant Jehovah's Witness "juveniles" stated that they thought that the Menorah was a "broken Christmas ornament", because not all of its lights were lit, as if they would have had the right to destroy such. Arresting police officers stated that some of the trio had been drinking. Goad and Kemp pleaded "guilty", and were fined and placed on two years probation, plus ordered to pay for the damages. Bones initially declined to plead guilty. Outcome of his case is unknown.
NELSON F. SANTAMARIA v. HALSTEAD ET AL was a March 2011 New York state lawsuit which involved a Jehovah's Witness Minister named Nelson Santamaria, then age 33, of NYC, who was employed as a Building Superintendent in central Harlem. Nelson Santamaria filed this religious discrimination lawsuit after being terminated in early 2011, and claimed that he was illegally fired after he had refused to erect Christmas lights during the 2010 Xmas season, because doing so conflicted with his WatchTower religious beliefs. Santamaria's lawsuit noted that he had worked at this large multi-occupancy building for a decade -- thus, Santamaria may have been a recent convert if there had been no previous difficulties. Interestingly, Santamaria's lawsuit was super-swift and was filed not in federal court, but in state court, where only local and state discrimination laws would apply. Such may explain why nothing more is available about this lawsuit other than the filing of such. Nelson Santamaria's lawsuit requested$2,000,000.00 in damages. Apparently, Building Superintendents in Harlem are extremely well paid.
IN RE DAVID WERTS was a 1983 Iowa unemployment compensation case. In 1981, a Jehovah's Witness Minister named David Werts, then 20s, of Spencer, Iowa, applied for and accepted a position at Twetten Furniture Company, which was a retail furniture store. During the 1981 Christmas season, David Werts explained his religious tenets to store owner, James Hanthorne, and did not participate in decorating the store that year. However, in 1982, when Werts again objected to helping decorate the store for Christmas, Werts was told to do so, or go home. Werts went home, and thereafter filed for unemployment compensation benefits. The Iowa Department of Job Service initially denied Werts benefits, but on Werts appeal, DOJS ruled that David Werts had been a victim of religious discrimination, and was entitled to unemployment compensation benefits. David Werts was faced with the choice of abandoning one of his religious beliefs in order to remain employed, according to the Job Service decision.
LANDLORD v. JEHOVAH'S WITNESS TENANTS was a 1991 Massachusetts landlord-tenant case which was alleged by the Landlord in a 2005 posting to a non-JW related discussion site. This alleged case is posted here due to the parallels to the employer-employee relationship. The Landlord alleges that the JWs last name was "Valentine", and that this scenario occurred in Salem, Massachusetts.
Landlord alleges that, in 1990, after barely being able to scrape together a down payment, she, her husband, and their two children purchased a duplex as their first home. In mid-November 1990, the couple rented the rental portion of the duplex to another couple with two children, who they quickly learned were Jehovah's Witnesses. The day after Thanksgiving, Landlord put up their Christmas Tree, hung a Xmas wreath on their door, and made the mistake of decorating the shared front porch. Landlord was then informed that their tenants were Jehovah's Witnesses, who did not celebrate Xmas, or any other holidays. Landlord was told that their JW Tenants found the Christmas decorations to be "offensive", and Landlord was asked to remove such from the exterior of the duplex. Three days after refusing their JW Tenants' demand, Landlord received a letter from the JW's attorney demanding that the JWs be paid $8000.00 in damages -- consisting of $2500.00 for return of their rental payment and rental deposit, plus $5000.00 for mental distress, and $500.00 for cost of moving. After a hearing in which the "judge" sided with the JWs, the case was allegedly settled for $5500.00 cash. The Landlord's family moved out of their own home during the additional "rent free" three months that the JW Tenants were given to find another apartment. Landlord alleges that they eventually discovered that this JW Family had sued at least three other Landlords in both Massachusetts and Florida -- including two whom the JWs had provided as references and had given the JW Family a good reference, allegedly as part of those settlement agreements.
EEOC v. INDIANAPOLIS HEAD START was a 1990-91 Indiana federal lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of a female Jehovah's Witness named Loretta Jennings. In December 1991, on her first day on the job as a teacher's assistant, Loretta Jennings explained that her beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness prohibited her from singing Xmas carols or doing anything else connected with Christmas and other holidays celebrations. Jennings was told to participate or resign. Jennings resigned, but thereafter filed a complaint with the EEOC, which thereafter filed this lawsuit on Jennings behalf. Outcome unknown, but obvious. Only the amount of the MONEY is in question.
In December 1976, David Merrill, a fireman with the Newport, Kentucky Fire Department refused to ride on a firetruck in the city's annual Thanksgiving Day parade, and was subsequently suspended on a charge of misconduct. Merrill was probably a recent convert who had been doing so in the past. Merrill also complained that "Santa Claus" was also riding on that firetruck, which meant that two satanic holidays were being celebrated. Outcome unknown.
The State of Ohio provides a type of welfare/work-fare program which requires welfare recipients to participate in employment related training. Welfare/work-fare recipients who fail to comply with the program's requirements are subject to having benefits suspended or even terminated. Decisions are subject to an appellate process. The following appeal is posted on an Ohio government webpage.
In 2002, a Jehovah's Witness single mother of two, who lived in Stark County, had certain benefits suspended for three months. The convoluted record seems to indicate that this was the second non-compliance incident. In this second incident, the JW participant failed to show up for the start of her assigned job training program. The JW's excuse was that she had not arranged for child-care, because the start of the job training program coincided with "Spring Break", when her two children would be at home rather than at school. The JW referred to "Spring Break" as "Easter Break", and claimed that as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, who do not celebrate Easter, that she had not even thought about the fact that her children would not be in school when she agreed to the start date of the job training program. The appellate body did not buy the JW's excuse, and the suspension was affirmed.
In December 2011, the following complaint (edited) was posted on the internet by a Co-worker of an unidentified female Jehovah's Witness, whom had worked beside that JW for six years:
"... her children come to the restaurant where we work every day when they get out of school. They wait an hour or so for her to get off work. They had gifts from school, not wrapped, but gifts and she was so upset over this. She threw them away in the trash. The gifts were gloves, a hat, and a scarf. She said quickly we don't celebrate Christmas or any other holiday. And I have told the teachers. So why do they keep giving them things when I ask them not to.
"Actually I knew that she was a Jehovah Witness and have always known since day one of working with her. For throwing things away and the real reason that I am upset, is because in telling her children there wasn't a Santa Claus while there were a number of children that were in the restaurant that were between the ages of 7 and nine or so. Some were setting at a table near her children. She spoke to her children telling them loud and clear that there wasn't a Santa Claus or any other mystical human that would bring those gifts or anything else. And I have told you not to believe and you still do. We are Jehovah witnesses .What part of that don't you understand.
"Then talking to her about telling her children in front of customers about her beliefs shouldn't happen. This is when she asked me if my God the same God as hers was, and if I knew his name. Seriously I am not against anyone's religion, or what they choose to believe.The point is she should respect others, mostly at her place of employment, as I respect her religion. Don't put me down for what I believe and I won't put you down. But she is an employee, and she should choose to act and represent the place she works for.
"This is a woman that accepts Christmas Cards from Customers with money in them, are you shaking your head yet? If you don't celebrate Christmas, then why do your accept the cards with money? Why don't you refuse them and practice what you preach. I asked her, and she explained it off as it is the service I give to them the whole year long! It isn't a gift, but it given in a Christmas card. Really, then why can't your children accept a scarf, socks and a hat? Because it is a gift? Really what is the difference? Mind your own business, this business is mine she explained.
"Sorry I know the name of your God, but I know the name of my God and I know the name of my judge at the end of my time on earth. I am not judging her, just upset with her for forcing her beliefs on the customers and me, throwing stuff away, if she didn't want her children to have it ask if someone else wanted them and even asking me if I know his name, it may not be the same name she calls him, but I know him, he has saved me, he has been there for me, and he always listens when no one else does. So her asking me this hurt my feelings, I have always treated her good; I don't judge her for her religion so what gives her the right to judge me, she doesn't have the right or the position to do so, And yes this hurt my feelings. ... ...
"So some of we see things differently than others, is it because of how we were raised? Agreed I don't want you to push your beliefs on me, and agreed I won't push my beliefs on you. Actually I wouldn't disrespect your beliefs so don't disrespect mine.
"The whole subject of this conversation and how she handled it in confronting her children in the place where we work in front of the customers that keep us in a job, with her beliefs. You work where people celebrate Christmas; you work where customers celebrate Christmas. We shouldn't have to bow to you, or shy away from our Christmas Spirit just because you don't celebrate. ... ... ."
The following question was posted in 2006 on MONSTER.COM's employment related discussion board:
"Five months ago I hired a young (mid 20s) guy knowing he was a [Jehovah's Witness], he has two 6 yr old twin daughters just starting school. This guy thinks the world should revolve around him and his family and he Is not shy about making fun of people who celebrate holidays or birthdays. I have had several employees ask me "whats up" with him? I have told people of his faith and asked them to respect his beliefs. This guy has tried to bait me Into a debate about religion and moral beliefs, and he makes fun"out loud" of the corporate parties and celebrations. I have reminded him of all the wars and people that have died fighting about religion, and that I have heard enough. He wont stop, what to do now?"
The following was posted on a public discussion board by a business owner:
We are a childcare company - children 6 weeks to 12 years. I learned today a supervisor is "accommodating" a staff member who is Jehovah's Witness by doing NO holiday-related art projects in that teacher's classroom. That means the children in her classroom are being treated differently than the other 5,000 children in our system, who are doing holiday/winter themed art projects: snowflakes, snowmen, wreaths, decorated trees, bells, reindeer, etc.
I think she went overboard. I instructed the supervisor to have the teacher resume with our regular curriculum, and if making a Rudolph project (for example) conflicts with her religious beliefs, then she can do other job-related tasks such as setting up for story time, or changing diapers, or updating parents' daily notes, or whatever, while her co-teacher does the "festive" stuff. Holiday Programs will be treated similarly: she won't have to sing, wear a Santa hat, or decorate a tree, but she will have to do productive work that is not holiday related.
Posted on a public discussion board regarding Christmas 2006 was a complaint from an employee of a company that had a Jehovah's Witness employed in another department. In order to kowtow to that single JW Employee, who refused to attend either a "holiday party", or anything smaller that their supervisor proposed due to such being somehow connected to Christmas, the department in which the JW worked was simply taken to a generic lunch by its supervisor.
The following was posted on a public discussion board in September 2006:
"I'm Jewish, but I don't consider it offensive when someone wishes me a merry Xmas. I'm happy that people are spreading joy during the Winter season, and they certainly have the best of intentions. But I once made the mistake of wishing Happy Holidays to a Jehovah's Witness at my work, and she was very offended. We certainly can't please everyone, but I found this to be way over the top. I made sure to wish her a Happy Birthday the next year, which I'm sure she didn't appreciate."
The following exchange between two Librarians was posted on a "Public Library" discussion board in 1998:
Wonder if anyone else has run into this problem, or something like it.... The library owns a lovely fake Christmas tree; we put it up in the foyer, and have begun to use it as an "angel tree," with our list of various needy people coming from different social service agencies. The tree is very tall, with lots of branches to be attached to the trunk. Our maintenance man is a Jehovah's Witness. Apparently, before my time, and maybe through my first or second Christmas here (memory fails),he would (grumblingly, but he did it) put up the tree. No one ever asked him to help decorate the tree. The last year or two, he has refused to put up the tree; the reasons are that a) his religious beliefs prohibit it, and b) it's not in his job description. (It's not in any staff job description, I might add.) So we get someone else to come over from city hall to put up the tree.
I am trying to be as multicultural (to make this even more sensitive, potentially, the maintenance man is black) and diverse and non-hierarchically-dead-white-European-male-like about this as I can be. (Also as Episcopalian as I can be, too, since I are one--an Episcopalian--and everyone knows how free-thinking and liberal we are.)
However, when we have someone right here who is tall, is not afraid of BIG ladders, and who can handle the situation, I'm wondering how far religious scruples can go. Or how far "it's not in my job description" can go. (I do want to be careful about discrimination and legal aspects here....) From the Evil Administrator's standpoint. I know what my higher-ups at city hall will say, i.e., resignedly, "Oh, well...maybe YOU could put up the tree. You're the other MAN over there."
Am I being too weird about this, or what? All suggestions or thoughts cheerfully accepted. (We're still in the 12 days of Christmas, so I'm moderately cheerful.)
Here is a response from the second Librarian:
If he really wants to avoid Christmas, he should take the month of December off. Absent that, send him home for refusing to work. If his religion is preventing him from putting up displays, he needs to find another line of work. Such tasks are routinely delegated to maintenance workers. Not everything one can be assigned to do has to has to be mentioned in a job description. Tasks have to be reasonably related to a job description, but the "it's not my job" excuse is a cancer in the workplace.
You may assure him that setting the display up does not imply his personal endorsement of Christmas or Christmas trees. You may assure him that you are not trying to impose anyone's beliefs on him by assigning him this simple task.
It does not matter that he is black or a Jehovah's witness. I am sure that had no bearing on the decision as to who was assigned to do the task. What matters is that he is the maintenance man. The fact that he has done this same task in previous years does not help his case.
This response might be appropriate if the maintenance man is the only maintenance man on staff. However, given that "we get someone else to come over from city hall to put up the tree", requiring the JW in future years to erect the tree could be a problem unless it can be established that having "someone from city hall" to do the tree erection is overly burdensome for any number of possible reasons.
The original author posted various versions of the following edited employment scenario on various "help" websites in 2006:
I work in a kindergarten run by a Christian organization and a Jehovah's Witness was hired. During the interview she had been asked if she would be able to participate in holiday events or teach the children songs, crafts, etc. related to certain holidays such as Christmas, and she answered "yes", but mentioned a few exceptions -- like dressing up for Halloween or wearing a Santa costume, leading birthday parties, etc.
Well, we are 2 weeks away from a big Christmas musical event where her class is supposed to sing about 4 or 5 songs including solo parts, learn lines, etc. -- this was all explained back in September as being part of the schools curriculum and she had no objection to teaching the kids the music and lines, but did say she could not be IN the musical -- and she hasn't even begun teaching them now claiming that "she doesn't do Christmas".
All of the other classes have already learned their songs and we are supposed to be in the final practice phase of putting it all together! The parents are livid, not to mention the school's staff -- especially me since I am the program director and was on maternity leave the last couple of months and assumed her class would be ready for the final practice by this week!. Of course, I am even more livid with the principal for hiring her in the first place! As for the kids, at the moment I am scrambling to help them learn as many songs and lines as possible within this short time frame and am trying to coral all the parents to work hard with their kids at home. All other curriculum has been scrapped (besides lunch and a shorter recess) in that class until the performance, so these kids are going to be spending their entire waking hours for the next two weeks learning their lines and songs so they can perform -- btw, they are supposed to be the "stars" of the show because they are the graduating class. Poor, poor kids is right!
WATCHTOWER CULT HYPOCRISY
In the early 1970s, the WatchTower Society decided to begin disfellowshipping users of tobacco products. A year thereafter, the WatchTower Society also began to disfellowship Jehovah's Witnesses employed in any part of the tobacco and tobacco products industries. Many local Body of Elders across the United States interpreted the Cult's rules as also forbidding Jehovah's Witnesses from working in convenience or other stores which sold large quantities of tobacco products. Before long, the same rationale led to Jehovah's Witnesses employed at convenience stores being disfellowshipped for selling lottery tickets. Because so many under-educated Jehovah's Witnesses were employed in such minimum wages jobs, the WatchTower Society soon had to "clarify" its position regarding Jehovah's Witness Employees whose job duties required them to sell tobacco products and lottery tickets.
The WatchTower Society compromised its position such that its JW members could continue to work at convenience stores, grocery stores, gasoline stations, etc. The Cult indicated that so long as tobacco products and lottery tickets constituted only an"incidental" part of the overall products sold by JW Employees, then working in such a job would be left to the "conscience" of its members -- which every JW knows is the Cult's way of saying, "Okay, go ahead." However, this meant that Jehovah's Witnesses could NOT be employed at smoke shops and other primarily tobacco products stores, nor at any store whose main sales were lottery tickets. The Cult's "logic" is not difficult to follow, and is easily applied to similar employment in other industries which involve products which the WatchTower Society prohibits the use or otherwise finds offensive -- adult products stores, gun shops, head shops, Christian book stores, etc.
That is why that we were somewhat shocked when we received a google news alert of a November 2015 obituary of a Jehovah's Witness, named Sarah E. Lewis, age 33, who had died in Fremont, Nebraska, which included info that Lewis had been employed at Oriental Trading Company since she was 15 years-old. We already knew that Oriental Trading Company is the largest retailer/wholesaler in the world of low-priced, imported novelties specifically manufactured for celebrations of birthdays and every single holiday on the American calendar. OTC sells 40,000 different items primarily to tens of thousands of churches, schools, etc. The only "incidental" products sold by OTC are those which do NOT relate to birthdays, holidays, patriotism, and Christianity.
Thus, we could not help but shake our heads to find that the Fremont Nebraska Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses permitted Lewis (and probably other local JWs) to be employed for 18 years at a company whose main product lines violate everything for which the WatchTower Cult stands, but even granted this "exemplary" Jehovah's Witness a Kingdom Hall funeral officiated by Elder Joel P. Kern of the Fremont Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses.
The Theocratic War Doctrine: Why Jehovah's Witnesses Lie In Court
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