JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES
 
BIRTHDAYS COURT CASES
 

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DO NOT SING "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" TO ANY JEHOVAH'S WITNESS.

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At the beginning of the 2010 school year, in August 2010, Principal Jodi Beth Davidson, of the Westerfield Elementary School, in Westerfield, Missouri, sent a letter home to all parents indicating that the singing of "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" would no longer be permitted at her school. Dr. Jodi B. Davidson's letter gave as the reason, "because of the sensitivity of all student beliefs." Davidson's new policy created quite an uproar amongst parents in the Rockwood School District, and Davidson partially lessened the ban in response. Singing "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" would no longer be permitted in the school's cafeteria, where all students were assembled, but rather would be limited to the individual classroom of the students who were having a birthday. Various reports alleged that Jodi Davidson was attempting to force her, either new or recently re-newed, WatchTower Society beliefs on her students. Reports alternately alleged that Jodi Davidson and/or her then-husband was a Jehovah's Witness. In any event, that was Davidson's last year at that school. Davidson relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio.

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GORMAN v. SHONEY'S.  In 1993-4, a Jehovah's Witness in Pinellas Park, Florida, named Lois Gorman, was fired by the Kenneth City SHONEYS for refusing to sing "Happy Birthday" to customers. An Associated Press article stated: "Lois Gorman calls her firing a clear case of religious discrimination. She says her bosses at Shoneys knew of her beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness but insisted she join others around tables to sing Happy Birthday. 'For anybody to degrade my religion in such a manner is unthinkable to me,' stated Gorman." Lois Gorman first filed a complaint with a local city government human relations agency, which also alleged that SHONEY'S had refused to accommodate her religious meetings time and dates. Gorman won that battle. Evidently, that outcome did not satisfy Lois Gorman, because Gorman later also filed a federal lawsuit. Outcome unknown.

Interestingly, there is a 2003 Florida Worker's Compensation lawsuit filed by a "Lois J. Gorman" against RESTAURANT MANAGEMENT SERVICES and PROTEGRITY INSURANCE COMPANY. That "Lois Gorman" apparently lost that case before both the WC court and the appeal in state court.

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EEOC v. ROCKY MOUNTAIN INNS INC. was a 1999 Colorado federal lawsuit involving a Jehovah's Witness named Trini Alonzo. Alonzo claimed that she was fired from Clancy's Restaurant in the Holiday Inn in Alamosa, Colorado, in June 1996, because she refused to serve birthday cake to a customer. Alonzo's religious discrimination lawsuit stated that her beliefs precluded her from participating in birthday celebrations or serving birthday cake, and that the employer failed to provide her with an "accommodation" by having one of the other servers serve her table. Settled for an unknown amount.

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EEOC v. CHI-CHI'S was a 1993 Maryland federal court case which involved a Jehovah's Witness named Cora Miller. Cora Miller, age 44, was fired her second day on the job from Chi-Chi's Clinton, Maryland location for refusing to sing "Happy Birthday" to customers. An Associated Press article stated in part:

"Jehovah's Witness Cora Miller doesn't go to birthday parties. Under her religion, celebrating birthdays even the birth of Christ is considered a pagan ritual. She never found the rule a problem until she was fired from Chi-Chi's restaurant for refusing to sing 'Happy Birthday' to a luncheon customer. Ms. Miller said she tried to explain the rule to the manager of the Clinton eatery. 'I told him I could still serve the food. I can even work in the kitchen. I just can't sing the she said.' ... The rule is just one of many that bar Jehovah's Witnesses from joining in acts to which others give little thought. The order believes that saluting the flag is image worship. They believe blood transfusions are sacrilegious. Ms. Miller said she hopes the case would change the way employers treat Jehovah's Witnesses. ... 'Even if I get nothing out of this, I want every other Witness to ...' Ms. Miller said. 'No other Witness should be turned away from a job because of their belief.'"

A local newspaper reported: "A Jehovah's Witness who refused to sing "Happy Birthday" to customers in a Mexican restaurant was fired from her waitressing job. Cora Miller, 43, told the manager of a Chi-Chi's restaurant that her religion forbade the celebration of birthdays because the practice originated with atheistic kings."

Another newspaper quoted Miller: "From my study of the Bible, [birthday celebrations] stems from pagan teachings and the realm of magic."

EEOC filed a federal lawsuit for back pay and punitive damages on Miller's behalf. The lawsuit was eventually settled for $57,500.00, plus Chi-Chi's had to agree to adopt a new corporate religious policy emphasizing the company's commitment to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of its employees, keep records of its handling of requests for accommodation, and apprise the EEOC of its accommodation efforts for two years.

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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 was allegedly 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".

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CABALUNA v. HOAG MEMORIAL HOSPITAL was a 2009-14 California state appellate court decision which should encourage any and all Jehovah's Witness Employees who have been or who are being harassed or discriminated against by a supervisor or co-worker because of their religious beliefs and/or practices to continue to FILE MULTIPLE COMPLAINTS with their Employer until the offending supervisor or co-worker is disciplined or even terminated.

In this court case, the plaintiff, Cabaluna, was the TERMINATED former co-worker of a Jehovah's Witness Employee named Marilyn E. Dougher, of Huntington Beach, California. Despite having been employed by Hoag Memorial Hospital for 28 YEARS, and at the time of her discharge being the charge nurse in the hospital's dialysis unit, Cabaluna was FIRED by the Hospital in 2009 after she "conducted in the workplace a mocking birthday celebration for [Marilyn] Dougher during which she gave [Marilyn]Dougher a birthday cake and sang 'Happy Birthday, Bitch'." Marilyn E. Dougher, then age 56, complained about the "mocking birthday celebration" to her own supervisor, and the Hospital thereafter fired Cabaluna.

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It is a widely known FACT that many Jehovah's Witnesses quietly CELEBRATE both birthdays and certain holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc -- particularly by JW Families with young, school-age children. Birthdays are held a few days before or after the exact birth date -- with generic party favors and decorations, and a cake that has no "birthday" lettering. Thanksgiving feasts are held either a few days before or after Thanksgiving Day. JW Families with young, school-age children give those children gifts a few weeks or days either before or after Christmas Day.

These Jehovah's Witness Families maintain the FARCE that they really are not celebrating the particular special occasion pretty much the same way they interpret the Bible -- they simply re-define terms to fit their own needs. Note this spinning, slicing, and dicing of the definition of "celebrate" which was published in September 2015 about a JW Family with a 5 year-old child:

[Tripp] Halstead's family are Jehovah's Witnesses so they donít celebrate birthdays but they do recognize it as a "special day," says Stacy [Halstead] (Trippís Mom).

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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.

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ORISELMA MENDEZ v. RIO GRANDE RESTAURANT CORP was a 2005 case which was heard by the Kentucky Commission For Human Rights. This Jehovah's Witness alleged she was subjected to a hostile work environment based on her sex and her religion. The restaurant denied all allegations, and asserted the complainant was not even on its payroll for failure to complete an employment application. The two parties agreed to settle. The restaurant agreed to pay the JW $5,000, comply with civil rights laws in the future, undergo civil rights compliance training, and report to the commission for three years with regard to such compliance.

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CARRANZA v. DESTINATION RESORTS INC was a 1998 Arizona federal court case. In February 1998, a Jehovah's Witness, named Geoffrey Carranza, filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the Hilton South Mountain Resort, near Tempe, Arizona. Carranza had been employed at the resort's Aunt Chilado's Restaurant, as a waiter's assistant, in April 1995. Carranza claimed that he had been fired for refusing to sing "Happy Birthday" to customers. However, the restaurant claimed that Carranza had voluntarily quit because he would not perform one of the essential duties of the position -- singing Happy Birthday" to customers. Outcome unknown.

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In 1995, a Jehovah's Witness, named Karen L. Deady, filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against a Riverside, California restaurant, in which Karen Deady alleged that she had been fired after she refused to sing "Happy Birthday" to customers. The employer responded that Deady had quit, rather than being fired, and that she did so after refusing to work at a position in which she would not have to sing the "pagan" song. Outcome unknown.

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A 1996 magazine article briefly mentions an incident involving an African-American Jehovah's Witness from Roseville, Michigan, named Georgette Evans. Georgette Evans supposedly refused to attend a co-workers birthday party, and was ridiculed by her co-workers. Her boss was also unsympathetic and gradually withdrew important projects from her charge. She was labeled a "woman with the attitude problem", and she later quit. Surrounding circumstances suggest that Evans likely attempted to file a complaint or lawsuit against her employer, but such is yet to be located.

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A 2002 Connecticut case involved an African-American Jehovah's Witness named Chele Jenkins, who was employed as a coordinator with a city school system. Jenkins' lawsuit for racial and religious discrimination claimed that her failure to pick up a birthday cake and to participate in a rally for increased educational funding outside the state Capitol led to her receiving poor job evaluations. Jenkins noted that her Jehovah's Witnesses religion prohibits her from celebrating birthdays or participating in political functions.

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O'MEARA-GARTMAN v. MAQUOKETA NEWSPAPER INC is a 2006 Iowa unemployment compensation case involving a Jehovah's Witness named Geneva O'Meara-Gartman, who had been employed by Maquoketa Newspaper from June 2001 until March 2006. The JW Employee worked full time in the composition department. On March 21, 2005, the advertising supervisor contacted the Production Manager at home and asked her to come into the office and talk with O'Meara-Gartman, who was very upset. The meeting lasted about 90 minutes during which time O'Meara-Gartman was a no-call/no-show to work March 22, 23 and 24, 2006. She decided she was too upset to come to work but could give no explanation as to why she did not call and notify the employer that she would be absent. She was aware of the provisions in the employee handbook which provides for separation from employment of any employee who is a no-call/no-show to work for three days. On Monday, March 27, 2006, she decided she did not intend to return to work but did not feel the employer was entitled to be notified of her decision. She did not think she would be able to do the work to the standard she would like to do it, even though she had never received any verbal or written disciplinary action for unsatisfactory work performance. In addition, she felt she was being treated differently because she had made it known last year that she suffered from bi-polar disorder, which had caused her to be absent from work on sick leave for a period of time in 2005. She had also changed her religion to Jehovah's Witnesses and made it known she no longer celebrated birthdays and then accused her co-workers of going out of their way to invite her to birthday celebrations in the office.

The claimant maintained that she was discharged in accordance with the policy in the handbook, which calls for separation from employment for any employee who is a no-call/no-show to work for three days. However, the record supports a finding that she voluntarily quit. The decision was based on her feelings of persecution from her co-workers because of her bi-polar disorder and her change in religion. But there is nothing in the record to support her contention that she was being constantly invited to birthday parties only after she announced her change in religion. There is also nothing to support her belief she was being prevented from working to the best of her ability by any other employee, and she acknowledged no one ever informed her that her work was not satisfactory. O'Meara-Gartman appears to have been overly sensitive to the work environment and her co-workers after making it known she had the bi-polar disorder and had changed her religion. However, "good cause" for leaving employment must be that which is reasonable to the average person, not to the overly sensitive individual or the claimant in particular. Her failure to come to work or report her absence to her employer for three days constitutes a voluntary quit without good cause, thus she was disqualified for benefits.

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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" court case posted on our "Holidays" webpage.
 
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.
 
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MARIA ANTOINETTE THOMAS v. CITY OF CHICAGO was a 2010 federal USDC case which involved a Jehovah's Witness Registered Nurse and her employer, the City of Chicago.  In April 2007, Maria A. Thomas was hired on a probationary basis as an Occupational Health Nurse for the Chicago Police Department's Medical Section. Maria Thomas was terminated in September 2007 before the end of her probationary period.
 
In December 2007, Thomas filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, alleging that the City terminated her because of her WatchTower religion. The USDC noted that this was the THIRD EMPLOYER against whom Maria Antoinette Thomas had filed discrimination charges. In February 2008, Thomas received a Right-To-Sue letter from EEOC based on her allegations of religious discrimination. Thomas filed her own lawsuit against the City in May 2008 alleging that she experienced various forms of employment discrimination. Specifically, in Counts I and II of her First Amended Complaint, Thomas claimed violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for harassment and discrimination, and retaliation. After the City moved for summary judgment on both counts, Thomas voluntarily abandoned her retaliation claim. In January 2010, the USDC granted the City's Motion for Summary Judgment on the balance of Thomas's lawsuit.
 
Approximately two or three weeks after Thomas started working with the City, her co-workers invited Thomas to a potluck dinner during their shift to welcome her and a second new employee to the group. Thomas eventually learned that a third co-worker's birthday would also be celebrated at the potluck dinner, so Thomas told co-workers that she would not attend due to her WatchTower beliefs. Only a few weeks later, Thomas' co-workers held another celebration at work. When Thomas did not participate, a co-worker told Thomas that a Jehovah's Witness female who used to work in the Medical Section used to attend the celebrations at the office. Thomas walked away from the conversation at the moment the co-worker said that the previous JW Employee would attend the celebrations.
 
As an occupational nurse, Thomas interviewed police officers to determine their need for additional treatment or additional time away from work, referred officers for treatment, determined dates that officers could return to work, determined potential work restrictions for officers returning to work and recorded her notes in the police department's computerized tracking system. Thomas did not provide medical care.
 
Oftentimes, the person in charge of referring officers for particular medical treatment, named Finnegan, disagreed with Thomas' proposed course of treatment. For example, approximately two weeks after Thomas started working for the City, Thomas told Finnegan that an officer should see a plastic surgeon to close a wound instead of receiving stitches due to the possibility that the officer had suffered nerve damage. Instead of following Thomas' recommendation, Finnegan told her supervisor, named Hemmerling, that the officer should see a doctor to receive stitches. Hemmerling agreed and had the officer see a doctor instead of a plastic surgeon. After observing the wound, the doctor sent the officer to the plastic surgeon to have the wound mended. Thomas believed that Finnegan disagreed with her assessments on a daily basis in order to undermine or sabotage her work. Thomas also believed that other employees took files from her office to sabotage her.
 
Hemmerling met with Thomas at least twice per week to discuss her performance issues at work. During the meetings, Hemmerling told Thomas that Thomas' entries into the computerized tracking system contained misspellings of common medical terms and unclear abbreviations, unsupported extensions of time off for officers, unclear documentation of medical conditions and evidence that Thomas failed to follow-up with officers when necessary.  After discussing these concerns with Thomas, Hemmerling informed a superior of Thomas' performance issues, and in May 2007 documented her deficiencies in a memo to the Personal Division. In June 2007, Hemmerling assigned an occupational health nurse with more experience to oversee and assist Thomas, but her work did not improve. Proper administrative procedures and channels were followed leading to Thomas's eventual termination.
 
The USDC noted, in part:
Here, Thomas claims that the following incidents created a religiously hostile work environment for her: 1) receiving questions from co-workers regarding her faith; 2) exclusion from birthday parties; 3) Finnegan "undermining or sabotaging" her work; 4) Hemmerling making two comments about her religion; 5) someone placing fish in the trash can outside of her office; 6) receiving "less favorable" treatment than other employees with respect to days off during her probationary period; 7) not being able to place a name tag outside of her door; and 8) not being able to display all of her qualifications on her business cards. However, Thomas has offered no evidence to demonstrate that any of the allegedly harassing conduct was because of her religion or that it was sufficiently severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of her employment.

For example, Thomas first claims that co-workers' questions about her faith and her subsequent exclusion from office birthday parties created a hostile work environment; however, the record establishes that Thomas was willing to discuss her faith with her co-workers and that questions about her religion did not offend her. The record also demonstrates that, contrary to Thomas contention, she was not excluded from office birthday parties, rather she herself decided not to attend these parties due to her religion. To be sure, the record reveals that when a co-worker told Thomas that another Jehovah's Witness used to come to the office parties, in an attempt to persuade Thomas to attend, Thomas simply walked away from the conversation. Additionally, the undisputed facts demonstrate that Thomas' co-workers never criticized Thomas for choosing not to attend the parties. ... Therefore, the record is devoid of evidence to support Thomas' contention that allegedly harassing conduct was because of her religion or that it was subjectively and objectively hostile.

Next, Thomas claims she was subjected to a hostile work environment because Finnegan was "undermining or sabotaging" her work. However, even if Thomas could establish that Finnegan was "undermining or sabotaging" her work, she offers no evidence to support the inference that Finnegan was "undermining or sabotaging" her work based on her religion. In fact, the record reveals that Thomas did not mention her religion at all when she complained to Hemmerling about her co-workers, but instead maintained that her co-workers undermined her work because they disagreed with her assessment of the proper treatment and referrals for certain officers. Because the record is devoid of evidence to support Thomas' speculation that Finnegan's motivation for undermining her work was because of her religion, she can not maintain a claim of hostile work environment based on Finnegan's alleged conduct.

Thomas also claims that she was subjected to a hostile work environment because Hemmerling made two negative remarks about her religion. Although disputed by Hemmerling, Thomas asserts that Hemmerling made the first remark in May 2007, after Thomas received authorization to leave early to care for her sick daughter. Hemmerling went to Thomas' office and said, "I will pray for you but not a stupid Jehovah prayer." Thomas asserts that Hemmerling made the second remark after she and Thomas had a work related disagreement. While walking away from Thomas' office, Hemmerling mumbled under her breath that Thomas was "a stupid Witness." The record does not demonstrate that Hemmerling, or any other employee, made any other derogatory comments regarding Thomas's religion. As previously noted, in order to establish a hostile work environment, Thomas must show the harassment to be "both subjectively and objectively so severe or persuasive as to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment." ... Here, even accepting Thomas' assertions as true, the record supports that Hemmerling made only two isolated remarks to Thomas, as opposed to a "concentrated or incessant barrage," which would likely have a greater emotional impact.. ...
Further, the remarks at issue were not made in public; if made, they were only made in Thomas' presence and one was barely audible as it was mumbled under Hemmerling's breath. Because Hemmerling's comments were infrequent and merely offensive as opposed to threatening and humiliating, Thomas has failed to establish that Hemmerling's two isolated remarks, over the period of her employment, were objectively so severe or persuasive as to create a hostile work environment. ...

Thomas next claims that she suffered from a hostile work environment because an unidentified co-worker, on two or three occasions, placed the remnants of a fish dinner in a garbage can outside her office. Thomas admits that she does not know who threw the fish into the trash can and has not offered any evidence, beyond her own assertion, to support her conclusion that the act of discarding fish into her trash can was critical of her religious beliefs. While Thomas may have felt that the act of discarding fish into a trash can outside her office was an affront to her religious beliefs, ...
she has failed to set forth evidence to establish that this conduct was motivated by her religion or that a reasonable person would find this behavior objectively hostile.

Next, Thomas claims that was subjected to a hostile work environment when she received "less favorable" treatment than a co-worker when she asked for days off during her probationary period. The record indicates that Thomas wanted to take two days off in July, 2007, but did not file a written request to do so. Nonetheless, Thomas was allowed to take the time off and was not disciplined for her failure to follow proper procedure. Thomas asserts that another employee, who she does not identify, but who the court assumes is her co-worker Salinski, received more favorable treatment when she requested time off. However, the record reveals that Thomas does not know whether Salinski, unlike herself, submitted a written request for time off, and if not, whether she was disciplined for failing to follow proper procedure. Thomas also concedes that she does not know whether Salinski received pay while on vacation. Because Thomas can not even establish that Salinski was similarly situated and treated more favorably, she can not establish that she received "less favorable" treatment because of her religion. Additionally, Thomas' concession that she was not disciplined for her failure to file a written request for time off, and was still allowed to take the time off, establish that the treatment she did receive was not sufficiently severe to create a hostile work environment. Moreover, even if Thomas had established that she received "less favorable" treatment, Thomas has set for no evidence to indicate that her religion was in any way a motivating factor for the treatment she received.

Lastly, Thomas claims that she was subjected to a hostile work environment when she was not allowed to place a name tag outside her door and was not allowed to list all of her qualifications on her business cards. However, Thomas concedes that she does not know why Hemmerling removed her name tag from her door. And, the record reveals that police officers serving as occupational nurses could use the initials "PO, RN" on their business cards to reflect their status as sworn officers but that Thomas does not know how other civilian occupational nurses, such as herself, displayed their names on their business cards. In short, Thomas has provided no evidence to link the removal of her name tag or the changing of her business cards to her religion.

Finally, even if Thomas had established that the incidents she complains of were objectively and subjectively hostile, there is no basis for employer liability because the record reveals that she never complained to the City about the allegedly harassing behavior, despite the fact that the City had a complaint register where employees could file complaints and report harassment. ...
 
Because Thomas has failed to submit evidence that she was harassed because of her religion, or that the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of her employment and create an abusive working environment, the City is entitled to judgment as a matter of law with respect to Thomas' hostile work environment claim.
 
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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.

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A recent 2007 court decision from Denmark is worth including here given the unique facts of the case, and that the Danish court ruled against the Jehovah's Witness Employee under that factual circumstance. Although Danish employment law is somewhat different from that in the United States, the facts of this case are such that an American court may very well have reached the same decision.

The employer of a low-level Jehovah's Witness Employee staged a birthday party at the worksite during regular business hours. Although unstated by the source, the honoree was probably an owner or upper-level manager. The JW Employee explained that she could/would not participate in birthday celebrations, and the JW Employee asked to be allowed to leave the premises when the party began. The employer refused permission. The JW left the premises anyway. The employer later attempted to issue the JW Employee a formal warning, but the JW Employee also refused to accept the warning. It is unclear whether the JW Employee then resigned, or was fired, but the JW Employee thereafter began legal proceedings in accordance with Danish law.

The Danish court ruled against the JW Employee. Evidently, the court "hung its hat" on the facts that the party was held on the jobsite during regular business hours, and that the party was attended by not only employees, but was also attended by clients and owners of the firm. Thus, the party was more than a simple office birthday celebration. Although not stated in the source summary, in all likelihood, the court probably felt that the low-level JW Employee could have remain present in the office at this "smoozing session" without directly participating in any "birthday party specifics" that would have violated WatchTower rules. Instead of leaving the premises, the JW Employee could have simply made herself scarce during the time when "specifics" occurred which she found objectionable.

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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.

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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, their JW Client'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.

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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?"

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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."
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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!

 
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RECOMMENDED READING:

Wifely Subjection: Mental Health Issues in Jehovahís Witness Women

Jehovah's Witnesses and the Problem of Mental Illness

The Theocratic War Doctrine: Why Jehovah's Witnesses Lie In Court

 

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