On appeal to the USCA, in August 2014, the USDC decision was REVERSED and remanded for entry of judgment in Woodland's favor. The USCA ruled that nowhere in the court record was there even an iota of evidence that Woodland knew of Nobach's religious beliefs before it discharged her. The USCA held that USDC Federal Judge HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN should have granted Woodland's motion for judgment as a matter of law made after return of the jury verdict. In part, the USCA stated:
... we simply cannot find evidence that Nobach ever advised anyone involved in her discharge that praying the Rosary was against her religion. According to the record, neither did Nobach tell the CNA that she was a Jehovah's Witness. Nobach acknowledges that the only time she made any mention of her religious beliefs was when she told the CNA: "I can't do the Rosary with [the resident]. I'm not Catholic, and it's against my religion." Nobach has never even claimed that the CNA told anyone of her reason for refusing to aid the resident. In sum, she has offered no evidence that Woodland came to know of her bona-fide religious beliefs until after she was actually discharged.
Woodland must admit, as it does, that Nobach's failure to perform the Rosary with the resident was the factor that precipitated her discharge. If Nobach had presented any evidence that Woodland knew or reasonably should have known the cause for her refusing this task was her conflicting religious beliefs, the jury would certainly have been entitled to reject Woodland's explanation for Nobach's termination, but no such evidence was ever provided to the jury. We hold, therefore, that a reasonable jury would not have had a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find that Woodland intentionally discriminated against Nobach because of her religion.
This court case is also an EXCELLENT LESSON for Jehovah's Witness Employees who fail to properly inform their employers of their WatchTower beliefs and practices. JW Employees should notify their employer as soon as possible after they are hired -- a more thoughtful JW wishing to avoid later controversy might do so during the hiring process -- that they are a "Jehovah's Witness", plus the Employer should be informed of all the workplace activities in which the JW Employee refuses to engage. The JW Employee should update that list whenever possible forbidden activities come to the JW Employee's attention. Jehovah's Witnesses should keep in mind that the WatchTower Society teaches them not only to be completely "honest" with everyone, but that Employers even specifically seek out to hire "Jehovah's Witnesses" -- because Jehovah's Witnesses are more honest than other employees, and because Jehovah's Witnesses work harder and are better employees than non-JW employees.
KELSEY NOBACH v. WOODLAND VILLAGE NURSING HOME CENTER was a 2009-2013 Mississippi state court case which dealt with Kelsey Nobach's eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits -- which the employer contested. In September 2009, Nobach filed for unemployment benefits with MDES. After an investigation, in October 2009, MDES denied Nobach's claim due to her receiving 5 write-ups in one year. Nobach appealed (late) the MDES's decision, and an ALJ not only waived the late appeal, but also overturned the MDES's decsion, in March 2010. Thereafter, the Employer appealed adverse decisions made by the Board of Review and the local Circuit Court.
In October 2013, the Court of Appeals of Mississippi ruled in Nobach's favor, stating in part: "Nobach's refusal to recite the Rosary was a single isolated event that does not amount to insubordination under Mississippi law." This state court did not address any constitutional issues relating to freedom of religion. This Court noted that although Kelsey Nobach had received five write-ups in one year, the fifth and last write-up was unrelated to the previous four write-ups, thus did "not amount to insubordination under Mississippi law."
Effective back in the 1970s, Jehovah's Witnesses are strictly forbidden to smoke, chew, dip, or otherwise use tobacco products. JW Farmers are forbidden to grow tobacco. Jehovah's Witnesses are also forbidden to work at wholesale businesses or retail stores whose main product line are tobacco related products. Since Jehovah's Witnesses are also forbidden to gamble in any way, shape, or form, Jehovah's Witnesses are also forbidden to work at casinos, bingo halls, etc.
COMMERCIAL BREAK: Even working at a separate independent business located inside a casino or bingo hall "evidently" is forbidden. My own brother was hounded out of the JWs because of operating the food and drink concession at a local bingo hall. Despite being "inactive" for a substantial period of time, the local JW Elders hounded him until he "disassociated" himself just to get them to stop coming to his house. The Elders weren't trying to get him to stop his business, mend his ways, or even return to the Hall. Knowing that disfellowshipping him was "borderline", and might get them in trouble with the Circuit Overseer (District Manager), they repeatedly asked him to DA, until he finally did so, simply to get them to leave him alone. (And, YES, my wuss brother is my exact opposite.) Just to show how hypocritical those same JW Elders were/are, one of our JW relatives is a Farmowner, who was also a "JW Pioneer". Those same local JW Elders allowed this "JW Pioneer" to retain their farm's federal tobacco allotment throughout the years of the federal regulation. This JW Pioneer annually signed all the pertinent federal documents required to grow and sell their farm's tobacco, including the "check", and at the end of federal regulation apparently collected the substantial "buyout" all allotment owners received. The "excuse" was that a non-JW step-son performed all the tobacco labor and supposedly received all the tobacco income. Of course, handing the step-son this "financial windfall" never resulted in any indirect benefits from tobacco production to the JW Farmowner. I wonder how many JW Farmowners throughout the "tobacco belt", who surrendered their cash-cow tobacco allotments back in the 1970s, would burst a blood vessel if they knew that all they needed to do to retain their allotment was to "pioneer".
Then, a few years ago, the Watch Tower Society published that some previously forbidden employment activities could be performed by Jehovah's Witnesses, so long as the forbidden act only constituted an incidental part of the JW Employee's total job duties, and the performing of such act does not offend the JW Employee's conscience, nor offend the conscience of any other Jehovah's Witness who might observe the act.
Although the Watch Tower Society never admitted to such, some observers speculate that the Watch Tower Society's strict rules on such matters was hurting its' recruiting efforts with certain peoples who worked in certain job categories. For instance, the Watchtower rules against tobacco and gambling caused many Jehovah's Witnesses across the U.S. to forego working at convenience stores, which sell large quantities of cigarettes and lottery tickets.
So, the Watch Tower Society published that if the handling and selling of cigarettes and/or lottery tickets was only an incidental portion of the Jehovah's Witness Employee's total job duties, then JWs would be permitted to work in that job position, so long as such did not offend that JW Employee's conscience, or the conscience of any other Jehovah's Witness who might observe them handling and selling cigarettes and/or lottery tickets.
As an example of how difficult it may be for some employers to figure out what employment duties a JW Employee may find acceptable or unacceptable given that probably over the decades hundreds of JWs have refused or given up convenience store jobs simply because they would be required to occasionally sell tobacco products and lottery tickets (gambling), there are other JWs on the other end of the spectrum whose consciences do allow them to be employed in jobs which are closely related to gambling and similarly prohibited activities.
The career of Phil Georgeff, a Jehovah's Witness since 1946, may serve as such an example. "The Voice of Chicago Racing" may be one of the most famous people in the history of Chicago horse racing. The now retired legendary racetrack announcer was entered into the Guiness Book of World Records, in 1988, after he called his 85,000th horse race. Georgeff retired in December 1992 after calling his 96,131st race. "The Phil Georgeff Festival of Racing" is an annual event at the Hawthorne Race Course. Since retiring, Georgeff has authored two books about horse racing, and currently resides in Fairhope, Alabama, where he and his wife, Bobbi Georgeff, are "active" Jehovah's Witnesses.
LINCOLN v. TRUE was a 1975 Kentucky unemployment compensation case which ended up in federal court. Ethel Lincoln was a Jehovah's Witness who worked for 21 years as a production worker at Philip Morris in Louisville. In August 1974, Lincoln resigned "because the elders of Jehovah's Witnesses, a recognized religious sect of which she had been a member for 15 years, informed her that anyone using tobacco or working with tobacco products was violating the Will of God, and unless she resigned, she would be expelled from the fellowship of Jehovah's Witnesses." Lincoln filed a claim for unemployment compensation, which was denied by the state because Lincoln resigned 15 days before the Watchtower Society deadline kicked in.
The USDC ruled in Lincoln's favor stating that "it is obvious that she was acting under the compulsion which the church doctrine exerted on her conscience and on her beliefs as a member of the church. There was no other reason why she chose to terminate her employment with Philip Morris. Defendant's argument that the denial of unemployment compensation was not based on First Amendment grounds and on the exercise of her religion is lacking in substance. There appears in the record a statement made by K. E. Shad, Examiner for the defendants, who conferred with a representative of the Jehovah's Witnesses ... [from Lincoln's congregation]. During that conversation the representative verified that the ruling from the General Body of the Church was issued March, 1974, to the effect that members whose jobs involved them in having contact with either alcohol or tobacco were asked to get other jobs, because of the philosophy that in good conscience the members should not be helping to manufacture products which the church preached against and which were harmful to one's health. Shad also advised that the members of the church had three months to find other positions based on the church's philosophy that there were always other positions available and obtainable with divine intervention. Shad further stated that individuals of the church would not be barred from general meetings ... because the meetings were public, but that they would be barred from various other activities of the church because of their affiliation with alcohol or tobacco."
CHAN v. SPRINT CORPORATION was/is a 2005 Kansas federal lawsuit that also involves "smoking", and a Jehovah's Witness named Laural Chan. Chan worked at Sprint's Overland Park, Kansas location, which is approximately 200 acres and has 34 structures to service 14,000 employees. Chan filed an employment discrimination action against her employer alleging that she suffers from a hypersensitivity to cigarette smoke and other chemicals, and alleging that Sprint violated federal disability law and committed state torts by failing to discipline employees who violated the company's smoking policy, which restricts smoking to designated areas outside.
Chan claimed that when exposed to cigarette smoke, she develops an intense, extreme burning and itching in her eyes, which typically lasts for the remainder of the day on which she was exposed. She also develops headaches, burning in her breathing passages, and hacking coughs that can last for several days, as well as blurred vision lasting from a few hours up to a day. Since the summer of 2002, Chan claimed that she had suffered some or all of these symptoms from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke on 30-34 occasions. Chan claimed that in addition to the physical injuries she suffered due to smoke exposure, she also suffered secondary stress related issues, such as sores in her mouth, abdominal pain, and a rash. Stress-related chronic pain in her hands is also exacerbated when she is exposed to smoke. She also feels blown off because of her employment situation, often feels like crying, and frequently cries at home. Chan's sensitivity to environmental tobacco smoke has reduced the amount of proselytizing that she can do as a Jehovah's Witness. Chan had only gone out in "field service" about ten times over a two-year period, while other Jehovah's Witnesses go out as much as two to four hours per week.
In July/August 2002, Chan sent multiple e-mails to employee relations and human resources representatives complaining about smokers on campus violating the smoking policy. A human resources representative, responded to the e-mails, and sent a memo to all campus employees in Chan's business unit reminding them of the smoking policy, the designated areas, and the need to avoid walking to the areas with lighted cigarettes. She indicated that violators could be subject to "corrective action." Sprint also ran a series of announcements on television monitors reminding employees of the smoking policy. Sprint even asked Chan for her imput on how to prevent violations of the policy. Chan responded with a proposed revision of the smoking policy that involved using security guards to ticket violators, building shelters over the designated areas, conducting surveys or employee focus groups regarding the policy, and publicizing smoking cessation events.
Sprint responded by offering several accommodations, including suggesting that Chan use sidewalks and routes on the campus that do not pass by designated smoking areas, schedule all meetings in her building or arrange to attend by teleconference, and do a percentage of work from her home by telecommuting. Sprint later granted Chan's husband permission to stop his car on Sprint Parkway in order to pick her up and drop her off at the second-floor entrance to her building without being asked by campus security to move. Chan's supervisor has also allowed her to work from home and begin and leave work early when she has asked to do so based on smoke exposure issues. Sprint even offered Chan the option of having a campus security vehicle transport her between buildings. Chan sued anyway. The USDC summarily dismissed Chan's lawsuit. The court ruled that Chan did not have a disability under ADA, and even if she did, Sprint provided her with reasonable accommodation. Not known if Chan appealed.
IN RE LUCKY STORES was a 1987 arbitration which involved a female Jehovah's Witness Employee who was terminated after refusing to sell lottery tickets as part of her duties as a store clerk. At the arbitration proceeding, an "elder" from the JW Employee's congregation admitted that selling lottery tickets was not blanketly prohibited by the WatchTower Society. Rather, each individual JW was expected to consider how a variety of biblical proscriptions impacted their own employment circumstances, and make their own determination. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the JW Employee since she sincerely believed that selling lottery tickets violated biblical principles as she interpreted such. Additionally, the Employer admitted that it had failed to even attempt to "accommodate" the JW Employee by failing to consider her for other store positions.
YES, JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES DRINK AND SELL ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
It is a common public misconception that the WatchTower Society prohibits its Jehovah's Witness members from consuming alcoholic beverages, and that Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to work at liquor, beer, or wine retailers, wholesalers, or manufacturers. In fact, there are numerous erroneous internet postings claiming such. In reality, because DRINKING is one of the few indulgences permitted by the WatchTower Society, there are a number of alcoholic Jehovah's Witnesses despite its warnings against such, and despite the fact that an alcoholic JW will likely be disfellowshiped if they allow their alcoholism to become known to the general public in a negative fashion. These include WatchTower Society President Joseph F. Rutherford and his drinking buddy, Hayden C. Covington, one-time Vice-President of the WatchTower Society -- not to mention numerous online anecdotal stories of excessive Bethelite drinking at various WatchTower Society facilities.
This is a good place to give both non-JWs and naive Jehovah's Witnesses another look behind the scenes into the REAL WORLD of the WatchTower Cult. This Editor was reared as one of Jehovah's Witnesses -- primarily by a JW GrandMother who had professed to be "one of the 144,000", or, "one of the anointed remnant" for two decades before this Editor -- now a senior citizen -- was born. At a minimum, Anointed JW GrandMother was a "compulsive drinker" of any type alcohol that she could get her hands on -- wine (preferably, because Jesus and other notable Bible characters drank wine), whiskey, or beer. I stop short of labeling Anointed JW GrandMother as an "alcoholic" only because we lived in a "dry county", and she was unable to obtain alcohol on a regular basis by the time that I was born in the 1950s. I understand that prior to my birth that Anointed JW GrandMother had frequented local bootleggers for years, but she eventually was forced to give up her local sources after she belatedly learned that those same bootleggers had been publicizing the local JW Hypocrite's patronage during most of those years.
Back during my college years, I could barely contain myself when I heard other students boasting about purchasing alcohol at retail liquor stores before they were old enough to do so legally. Usually, most braggarts would boast of making such illegal purchases when they were 20 years-old, 19 years-old, or even 18 years-old. In every instance, I was able to "out-brag" my fellow college students since I had purchased beer, wine, and liquor at a retail liquor store located in Columbia, Missouri, while on an overnight school trip during my sophomore year of high school, when I was only 15 years-old.
What I -- up until now -- kept a secret from others was the fact that, ACTUALLY, I started purchasing beer, wine, and liquor at retail liquor stores when I was merely 4-5 years old. I am unsure of my exact age, but I know that I was doing so before I entered the first grade of elementary school. When Anointed JW GrandMother was somehow able to talk my non-JW GrandFather into allowing her to "borrow" the family automobile during the daytime, which he routinely drove to work, on occasion, she and I would drive the 30 miles to the closest "wet city", where Anointed JW GrandMother would park down the street from one of the "wet city's" retail liquor stores, and she would then send me to that store with an envelope containing her "booze order" and money, while she hid down in the front seat hoping that noone from our hometown would drive past and recognize her. After doing that a few times, the liquor store clerks stopped "wondering outloud" what a "child" was doing making a booze purchase, and simply filled my order (that was a different day and time).
I recall one trip that we made on a hot summer day (no air conditioning in car) when I had not had anything to drink since we had left home. On our way back home from the liquor store, I watched as Anointed JW GrandMother sipped on one of the cold beers that was part of her order. I asked her if she would stop at one of the many country grocery stores along the way so that I could buy a cold soda pop. Although we were still in the neighboring county, Anointed JW GrandMother refused to stop because she was afraid that she would be spotted by someone that knew her. To shut up my repeated requests, Anointed JW GrandMother finally started sharing her cold beer with me. I believe that was when I was around 5-6 years old.
I also recall another "exciting" trip to the liquor store when I was around 7-8 years old. One day when Anointed JW GrandMother had talked non-JW GrandFather into allowing her to have the family automobile for some other legitimate purpose other than slipping off to the liquor store, Anointed JW GrandMother "struck gold" when she found Grandpa's own private stash which he had hidden from her in the trunk of the car. Grandma started sipping on Grandpa's "fifth", but as usual, once she started, she could not stop. After three or four hours of taking "just one more sip", she had consumed half or more of the whiskey that had been left in the "fifth". That meant that Anointed JW Grandmother had to make a liquor run to purchase another "fifth", so that she could "replace" the amount of whiskey that she had drank out of Grandpa's "fifth". As readers should suspect, Anointed JW GrandMother was already intoxicated by that point in time. I specifically remember Anointed JW GrandMother almost hitting or being hit by at least two other drivers before we even made it out of the city limits. How we made it all the way to the liquor store and back has been lost from my memory. I do recall Anointed JW GrandMother having sobered up enough on the way back to pull off the side of the highway and refill and re-hide Grandpa's "fifth" in the trunk. That still left her with about 2/3s of a fifth to drink later that night after Grandpa went to bed.
Readers should know that Anointed JW GrandMother took seriously the WatchTower Society's admonition to avoid "intoxication". She developed a "routine" whereby she would "sip" on a bottle of wine or a fifth of liquor literally for hours. Her problem was that she could not stop until the bottle was empty. On many occasions, I saw her literally take 24 to 48 hours to consume a bottle before then resuming her normal routine.
In December 1982, Kimberley Miller, age 24, daughter of David Miller and Charlotte Miller, of Yadkinville, NC, was shot and killed during an armed robbery at a Steak & Ale in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Kim Miller worked as a bartender during the evenings to support her daytime avocation as a Jehovah's Witness Pioneer -- a "fulltime" door-knocker.
In June 1980, African-American Jehovah's Witness celebrity/singer George Benson appeared at St. Louis's inaugeral Kool Jazz Festival. Benson gave a pre-concert interview to an African-American reporter from St. Louis's African-American newspaper. Benson declared that he was a Jehovah's Witness and a devout Bible student. The article included a mini-sermon in which Benson further declared that the Bible contained all the answers to all of mankind's woes. The article further related that while in St. Louis, George Benson was presented the CLIO award , which is the advertising industry's top award (named for the Greek goddess Clio). Benson received the award in recognition of his work promoting the Michelob Beer brand, a product of St. Louis based Anheuser-Busch.
VERONICA BROWN v. NEBRASKA LIQUOR CONTROL COMMISSION was a 2012 Nebraska administrative action. Veronica Brown, a Jehovah's Witness living in Kimball, Nebraska, sought a state Liquor License in order to sell alcoholic beverages at her newly opened restaurant, but was initially denied such because Nebraska state law required Liquor Licensees to be registered voters -- and, of course, as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, Veronica Brown refused to register to vote. On appeal, the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission -- not Nebraska's Supreme Court, nor even Nebraska's Court of Appeals -- declared the decades old state law to be "unconstitutional", and issued a Liquor License to Veronica Brown. Media articles also reported that Veronica Brown was assisted in the preparation of her case and the submission of applicable evidence by the Body of Elders at the Kimball Nebraska Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses.
IN THE MATTER OF RONNIE WILSON was a February 2012 Application Hearing of the DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE CONTROL BOARD. African-American male, Ronnie Wilson, then age 48, relates in the Hearing that he had been reared as a Jehovah's Witness; relates that he had reared his two daughters as Jehovah's Witnesses; and discusses his then current status as a Jehovah's Witness. Ron Wilson managed to convince this ABC Board to conditionally approve his application for a manager's license despite the fact that at the time of the Hearing, Ronald Wilson was on probation for a cocaine possession charge back in 2010, and as is discussed in the linked transcript, Wilson had been minimally charged in a REAL ESTATE FRAUD CASE in February 2011. CHAIRWOMAN RUTHANNE MILLER moved that Wilson's application be approved, and the only other female on the Board, JEANNETTE MOBLEY, immediately seconded RUTHANNE MILLER's motion, but not without a "what the hell are some of you thinking" dissent from Board Member NICK ALBERTI, who stated to Wilson, in part:
"Your willingness to perpetrate a [REAL ESTATE] fraud just nine months ago, I mean, that wasn't just a small [REAL ESTATE] fraud. I mean, you had to think about that and knowingly go into someone else's property and set up house. That's pretty serious to me. The fact that you are telling us that you don't need [DRUG]counseling is a huge red flag for me. It says to me that you're not ready to really take control, to admit to yourself that -- what is necessary for you to move forward. And because of that, I don't think you're ready for this responsibility, let alone the responsibility, as you indicated to us, that you would be in charge day-to-day of an establishment that's selling alcohol in a neighborhood that has its own set of problems with drugs. I'm just astounded that anyone thinks that you're responsible for this -- rise to the level of responsibility for this privilege. That's it. I'm done."
RUTHANNE MILLER's motion passed 4-3. A followup on this conditional approval was scheduled for August 2012. Nothing can be located indicating that such occurred.
The following EXCERPT was authored in October 2011 by a Calgary, Alberta female Jehovah's Witness, named CHELSEA, who was FIRED by her Liquor Store Employer. This former JW Employee then posted an online public criticism of her employer and her termination. This excerpt is highly informative regarding certain attitudes of many Jehovah's Witness Employees:
A few days later we finally got our permanent Manager. At first she seemed like a really good Manager, but then she decided to surprise me and another girl with a final written letter (there was no first or second, just a final) stating that we had been doing the inventory counts wrong, and we would be fired if we didn't start doing them right. We did them the way the previous Manager taught us how to do them, we didn't deserve disciplinary action, but she said it was because her Manager said if she didn't she would be fired. She then taught us how we were supposed to do them which wasn't much different from what we were doing, just a little more detailed.
She also gave me another final letter at the same time stating: "Chelsea has been pushing her religion on other employees and there was a customer complaint about this." The disciplinary action: "She is no longer allowed to bring the AWAKE magazines onto the store premises."
I talked to all my co-workers about this and they all told me that they never felt like I was pushing my religion on them. I would never do that. But sometimes I would share my belief's with them, which the last time I checked, Canadians have the right to talk about their belief's, and practice their own religion. My religion requires that we obey Jesus commission to preach the good news to people of all nations (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:9-13). So by talking to people about the Bible I am practicing my religion, which I have the right to do. Of course, I would not irritate anyone who didn't want to hear it. I do believe in Canada, it is also a persons right to read any material they so desire. By telling me that I am not allowed to bring my reading material on store premises am I not also being prevented from practicing my personal rights and freedoms?
If I was a crazy person who was truly trying to stuff religion down people's throats, and therefore making many employees and customers uncomfortable, than I completely understand suspending a person like that for two weeks, as they did to me. Or even firing them. But there was only one customer complaint about me talking about my religion with another employee, and that customer most likely had a prejudice against Jehovah's Witnesses.
A few weeks after I came back from my suspension, on a Sunday, I was working with a new girl. When she came in she had a bad attitude even though I tried to be nice and cheerful. She treated the customers as if they were bothering her, and while I was doing the work our Manager asked us both to do, she was sitting around texting. I told my Manager about it, but after she talked to the new girl about it, the new girl apparently told her that I was the one with the bad attitude. Then on the day of my next shift which was the very next Sunday, my Manager calls me and tells me that last Sunday I got two customer complaints about my service, and the new girl got seven. She then said she was letting me go, as well as the new girl. I truly feel that it was all some sort of set up or lie to find a way to fire me. I don't know why they really wanted me out of there since I was "one of the best employees on staff," and I was the most cooperative, reliable, easy going, and caring employee I'm sure they've ever had. I worked on every holiday, and took over a lot of people's shifts when they needed help.
JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES
AND EMPLOYMENT WITH OTHER RELIGIOUS GROUPS
SHARON L. SHEPHERD v. GANNONDALE is an ongoing January 2014 Pennsylvania federal civil court case. Gannondale WAS a Catholic ministry of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, which provided holistic and therapeutic residential care for young women placed by the court. Gannondale ceased all operations on June 30, 2014. Prior to Shepherd's employment at Gannondale, at the invitation of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Gannondale had implemented the "Sanctuary Model of Trauma Informed Care". Gannondale was certified by the Andrus Institute in New York as a Sanctuary Model organization on March 25, 2011.
Sharon Shepherd was hired as a bookkeeper in October 2011. INTERESTINGLY, although Shepherd claims to be an active Jehovah's Witness dating back to the early 1990s, Shepherd chose to seek employment with the religious denomination which is "HATED" most of all by the WatchTower Society. INTERESTINGLY, although Shepherd had directly reported to Executive Director Nancy Sabol from Day One, Nancy Sabol had not been informed that Shepherd was a Jehovah's Witness until May 23, 2013 -- although the Human Resources Manager did know at some unknown previous date.
At the time of her firing in June 2013, Shepherd held the post of Bookkeeping Supervisor. Sharon Shepherd, age 57, of Erie, Pennsylvania, alleges that several months after she began working at Gannondale that the organization started requiring her to attend community meetings four days a week. At those meetings, Shepherd and other staffers were required to state a "daily goal that was related to a 'commitment' to the 'sanctuary model,'" including a commitment to "growth and change". As a Jehovah's Witness, Shepherd claims that she believes in "predetermination", not "growth and change", and that requiring her to attend those meetings and participate in such violated her religious beliefs.
... [Shepherd] looked into the Sanctuary Model and believed there was too much anti-Christian content for her to be a part of the "community meetings." ...
Shepherd learned that the Sanctuary Model references religious leaders and [idol]aters, such as Buddha, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi. Shepherd, on the other hand, believes in the Bible and in God's word, rather than the words of those individuals. ... Shepherd did not feel comfortable with the Sanctuary Model because it relies on governments and other religions. ...
Shepherd received a paper from Gannondale on "growth and change," which stated something along the lines that individuals can change society and culture through their actions. ... [Shepherd] testified that these ideas contradict her faith because she believes that Armageddon is coming, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop judgment day from taking place. ... Plaintiff states that:Most of the seven "commitments" violate my religious beliefs because they focus on the idea of changing the future through individual and group actions. While I believe humans can grow and change on a personal level, I believe the outcome of the world has already been decided. Jesus has directed that we be no part of the world and not be part of worldly governments. I view the "community meeting" as a worldly government because it follows an organized system of ideals and focuses on changing the future through collective actions.
... ... Plaintiff contends that the Sanctuary Model relies on the teachings of Maxwell Jones, "who most enthusiastically developed the concepts of the therapeutic community both in Britain and in the United States and attempted to spread those concepts to institutions outside of the formal psychiatric system." ... In its explanation of "growth and change," the Sanctuary Model quoted Maxwell Jones, who stated: "Who knows what directions society must take in order to protect itself from extinction? In any case these global problems are the concern of rational governments. Behind these valid rationalizations lurks the most basic problem of all ó man's almost universal resistance to change as an ongoing process." ... She notes that Sabol admitted that the above statement by Jones sounded in conflict with what Shepherd told her about her religion. ...
The Sanctuary Model's commitment to "emotional intelligence" explains, in part: "because we are a social species, dependent for our survival on other people from the time we are born, evolution designed us to resonate with the emotions of other." ... This statement conflicts with Shepherd's religious beliefs because she does not believe in evolution. ...
Shepherd disagrees with the Sanctuary Model in general because it is an organized set of beliefs and ideals that differ from the Bible, and she believes in what the Bible says. ... Shepherd does not feel comfortable with the Sanctuary Model because it does not refer to or rely upon the teachings of the Bible. ...
HELLS BELLS SHARON L. SHEPHERD!!! Welcome to a world NOT RULED BY JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES. It sounds like the only place where Sharon Shepherd will ever be happy working is at WATCHTOWER HEADQUARTERS.
Shepherd alleges that she first told a Human Resources manager in November 2012 that the community meetings interfered with her religious beliefs. Shepherd alleges that the HR manager initially told her that she did not have to attend the meetings, but in May 2013, Executive Director Nancy Sabol told Shepherd she would be fired if she did not attend the meetings. Shepherd claims the HR manager and her supervisor later asked for proof of how the sanctuary model violated her religious beliefs. Shepherd claims she gave them a one-page document explaining the contradiction between "growth and change" and her religious beliefs, but she was fired effective June 13, 2013.
On June 23, 2013, Shepherd filed a Charge of Discrimination against Gannondale before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. Shepherd filed this federal lawsuit on January 17, 2014 and she filed an Amended Complaint on July 3, 2014 (after Gannondale closed). Count I alleges religious discrimination in violation of Title VII, both for failing to accommodate her sincerely held beliefs and for firing her because of them. Count II alleges that Defendant's act of firing based on her religion violated the PHRA. In December 2014, the USDC denied Gannondale's motion for summary judgment.
"Crouch contends on appeal that the Southern Baptist Hospital of New Orleans, Louisiana, to which institution he was ordered to work by the Local Board, was an unsuitable place of employment, inasmuch as it is owned and controlled by a competing religious sect, and that the order of the Board to report to that institution was illegal because it attempted to force him to aid another religious group and deprived him of his right to free exercise of his chosen religion in violation of the First Amendment.
"The only evidence relied upon by appellant in support of his contention is the charter of Southern Baptist Hospital. The charter shows that the hospital is a wholly owned and controlled subsidiary of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as stipulated by counsel, the Convention is composed of member Baptist churches and is a religious organization. Appellant argues that ownership, supervision and control by the Convention is tantamount to a conclusion that the hospital is a religious organization, and that employment therein of persons of his status aids a competing religion, prohibited by the Constitution ... ... ...
"The District Court found, and we agree, that a showing of mere ownership and control of the hospital by the Baptist Convention was insufficient to establish that the work performed by the hospital was of a religious nature. The Government proved that the work of the hospital, a non-profit corporation, is to care for the sick and afflicted. The record is devoid of any evidence that the institution is [religious] in its operation. There is nothing in the record from which it may be inferred that the hospital staff members, employees or patients must be of the Baptist faith, nor is there any showing that the Baptist religion is practiced in the hospital or that religious worship is imposed on its patients or employees."
"[Berrier's] First Amendment claim is based upon his allegation that working at the Methodist Home would be aiding another religious denomination, which would contravene the belief of his faith (Jehovah's Witness) that aiding any other religious denomination is to worship a false God. ..."The evidence established that the Methodist Home was a nonprofit organization having as its primary purpose and objective the care of the aged. Though preference for admission was accorded Western North Carolina members of the Methodist faith, the Home accepted aged persons of various denominations, and non-Methodist employees outnumbered Methodists. ... ..."Since care for the aged obviously contributes to the maintenance of the national public health, interest and welfare and since the Methodist Home provides care for the aged of various denominations, we reject Berrier's claim that the Home is not an appropriate institution in which he should be required to perform civilian work in lieu of induction. ..." Berrier's constitutional attack upon his work assignment closely parallels that considered by the court in UNITED STATES v. CROUCH wherein a Jehovah's Witness assigned to work at the Southern Baptist Hospital of New Orleans claimed that such assignment was in violation of the First Amendment guarantee of his religious freedom because it attempted to force him to aid another religious group which was directly contrary to the religious teachings and beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses. The evidence in [CROUCH] established that the hospital was owned and controlled by Baptist churches and that the hospital was a nonprofit institution engaged in the charitable activity of caring for the sick and afflicted. There was no evidence that patients or employees must be Baptists, that the Baptist religion was practiced in the hospital or that the Baptist faith was imposed upon either the patients or employees. ... the court held that the showing of ownership and control of the hospital by the Baptist Convention was insufficient to establish that the work performed by the hospital was of a religious nature and, therefore, the fact that the hospital was operated by a denomination of a faith different from that of the registrant did not constitute an invalid restraint on his free exercise of religion."As in Crouch, ... the evidence in the instant case showed that the Methodist Home accepts members of other denominations as patients and that employees are not restricted to the Methodist faith. As in Crouch, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Methodist faith is practiced at the hospital or in any manner imposed upon patients or employees of the Home. Thus, Berrier's claim that his First Amendment religious freedom rights would be violated by his assignment to work at the Methodist Home must fail."
"... defendant has attached to his brief a certified copy of the articles of incorporation of Bellin Memorial Hospital, which discloses that it is owned and operated by the Methodist Church. The articles disclose the manner in which the directors are to be elected, a majority of whom shall be members of that church. The purpose of the corporation is stated in the articles, 'To establish, conduct and maintain a hospital, School of Nursing, and other hospital schools and issue diplomas to such as shall have completed the course of study and training prescribed by each school, which said business is to be carried on within the State of Wisconsin and especially within the County of Brown in said state.'"... defendant argues that work in Bellin Memorial Hospital would be principally for the benefit of the members of the church or for increasing its membership. There was no proof that such would be the case and we think the asserted basis for such argument is little more than a figment of the imagination. It is a matter of common knowledge that the purpose of hospitals generally is the 'maintenance of the national health,' and they are engaged 'in carrying out a program for the improvement of the public health or welfare' of those whom they serve, and this irrespective of all other considerations. The burden of proof would be heavy upon one who asserts any exception to this general purpose. Moreover, it must not be overlooked that defendant's refusal to report for work was not because of the religious affiliation of Bellin Memorial Hospital. He refused to report to other hospitals which had no religious connections, and finally took the position that he would not report for civilian work under any circumstances.
"We are in accord with the decision of [CROUCH] based on a factual situation so similar to that here that the opinion reads as though it might have been written for this case. There, Crouch, a Jehovah's Witness, was convicted of refusing to comply with an order of the Board to report for work in the Southern Baptist Hospital of New Orleans. As in the instant case, he not only refused to comply with the order but unconditionally refused to perform any kind of civilian work under the Act. The main contention on appeal was that the hospital to which he was ordered to work was owned and controlled by a competing religious sect, and that the order of the Board to report to that institution was illegal because it attempted to force him to aid another religious group and deprived him of his right to the free exercise of his chosen religion. ... ... ...
"No case is cited which supports defendant's argument that the Board's order constitutes involuntary servitude contrary to the Thirteenth Amendment. His contention on this point is based upon the Board's order which requires him 'as a Jehovah's Witness, to work in a religiously controlled institution whose religion was not accepted by the appellant's religion.' As this court has done before, we reject this contention. ..."
"... Congress created an exemption for religious organizations, stating that Title VII shall not apply 'to a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities.' In other words, a 'religious' organization is permitted to discriminate on the basis of religion. ... The 'religious exemption' is clearly at issue because the Complaint alleges that Light of Life refused to hire Jackson because of his religion."
"... the Court concludes that Light of Life qualifies for the religious exemption as a matter of law: (1) Light of Life is a non-profit corporation; (2) Light of Lifeís Articles of Incorporation contain a clear statement of religious purpose. Light of Life has also published Mission Statements, a Doctrinal Statement, a Statement of Faith and Core Values that are heavily laced with religious references; (3) Light of Life holds itself out to the public as a religious entity, apparently even including its telephone greeting; (4) there is no evidence of record to determine whether or not a specific church is intimately involved in day-to-day operations; (5) Light of Life receives an unspecified amount of financial support from churches. Light of Lifeís Statement of Faith 'affirms and identifies' an affiliation with the ECFA, although the record does not explain whether the ECFA is a church. The Doctrinal Statement identifies with Protestant and Evangelical churches; and (6) Light of Life conducts two religious services each day."The evidence that Light of Life is structured and holds itself out as a religious organization is simply overwhelming. The corporate acts of creating and adopting a Statement of Faith and a Doctrinal Statement should be dispositive evidence that an entity is 'religious'. Moreover, the numerous explicit religious references in the Articles of Incorporation, Mission Statement and Core Values are independently dispositive. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine what more an organization could reasonably do to proclaim its religious purpose."Plaintiff does not contest any of these facts, but instead contends that his specific job did not require participation in these religious activities. For the reasons set forth above, this is not the proper legal test. Even assuming, arguendo, that the facts contained in the newspaper article and EEOC Determination Letter submitted by Plaintiff were true, and giving Plaintiff every reasonable inference therefrom, Light of Life would still be entitled to summary judgment. Similarly, even if the discovery sought by Plaintiff were permitted2 and revealed that Light of Life had extensive real estate holdings, engaged in numerous business-related activities and received little or no church funding, the legal analysis would not change. As the Supreme Court and Third Circuit have instructed, secular activities will not destroy an organizationís religious character and the religious exemption applies to all of its employees. ... Accordingly, the Court concludes that there are no genuine issues of material fact regarding whether Defendant is a religious organization and Light of Life is entitled to the 'religious exemption' ... as a matter of law."There is an independent, alternative basis for the Courtís conclusion. Defendant contends that the newspaper article and EEOC Determination Letter submitted by Plaintiff do not create genuine issues of material fact, and thus cannot be used to defeat a motion for summary judgment. The Court agrees. A newspaper article is inadmissible hearsay and thus, cannot be considered in ruling on summary judgment. ... EEOC determination letters are admissible, but cannot defeat summary judgment. ... As explained above, the EEOC Determination Letter in this case applied the wrong legal standard. [FOOTNOTE: 'A review of the EEOCís determination reveals that the investigator applied the wrong legal test. The Determination Letter considered whether participation in religious activities was a qualification for the specific job Jackson held, rather than applying the principle enunciated in Little and Curay-Cramer, i.e., that the religious exemption applies to all employees of religious organizations. The EEOC Determination Letter did not even reach the question of whether Light of Life is a 'religious' organization.] Plaintiff has not submitted any other evidence in opposition to the motion. Thus, in addition to the substantive reasons set forth above, the Court will grant the motion for summary judgment based on Plaintiffís failure to introduce evidence sufficient to create any genuine issue of material fact."
The following "Position" posting was found on the website of a Baptist Church in El Dorado, Texas:
Marcus White -- Custodian
Marcus is an El Dorado native and 1994 graduate of EHS. Marcus is married to Adenia, and has two children - ages 18 and 19. He attends Kingdom Hall Church. His hobbies are fishing, hunting and spending time with family, and he is proud of his 1990 GT Mustang and 2000 Chevy Impala. Marcus joined the staff in 2007.
SOME JW EMPLOYEES MAY EVEN REFUSE TO ENTER
BUILDINGS OWNED OR OPERATED BY OTHER RELIGIOUS GROUPS
For decades, it was typical that Jehovah's Witnesses, who hold their "meetings" in "Kingdom Halls", would not enter a church, synagogue, cathedral, temple, or any other related building which was used for "false religious" purposes, or support thereof. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that they are the "only true religion" on planet earth, and that all other religions, including professing Christian religions, are unwitting dupes and worshippers of the DEVIL.
This also means that Jehovah's Witnesses would never attend any type of religious service performed by one of Satan's minions, even if such were held in a secular structure, such as a funeral home, banquet hall, or sports stadium. Given how JWs view "buildings", do I need to explain how Jehovah's Witnesses privately think and feel about their employers and co-workers who are active members of such "false religious organizations"? Suffice it to say that JWs believe that everyone but Jehovah's Witnesses will be exterminated when Jesus Christ returns the second time to fight the battle of Armageddon.
Over the years, the prohibition against entering "false religious" building has eroded, and some JWs will now attend funerals, weddings, etc. of relatives, whether such are held in religious or secular buildings. However, JWs who choose to attend such functions are warned to refrain from doing anything which would be considered "participating" in the religious portion of the event.
Thus, employers of Jehovah's Witness Employees should anticipate the possibility of problems if that employer's business products or services ever requires employees to enter "false religious" buildings. For example, potential problems at catering businesses are obvious. Not so obvious are contracting businesses, such as delivery services, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, heating and air, roofers, painters, etc., who only occasionally perform services on religious structures. At one time, JWs were strictly prohibited from performing work in "false religious" buildings, including support buildings, such as parsonages. However, the Watch Tower Society recently loosened this restriction, and made it a "conscience matter", pointing out that responding to an occasional emergency might be the more christian thing to do. Of course, the fact that over the past couple of decades more and more Jehovah's Witnesses have turned to independent contracting to avoid the problems with employers addressed in this website had nothing to do with this new Watchtower interpretation.
2014 ADDENDUM: In August 2014, in PAYNE CARE CENTER v. CALIFORNIA, the 9th Circuit (USCA) ruled against a small 6-bed residential community care facility which cared for a developmentally disabled JEHOVAH'S WITNESS who had filed a complaint with the State because PAYNE refused to force its two Catholic employees and one atheist employee to accompany the JW Resident to religious services at a local Kingdom Hall. Despite the fact that PAYNE had offer to transport the JW Resident to and from the Kingdom Hall, plus work with the Elders at the Kingdom Hall to arrange for a JW member to attend to the JW Resident during services, the State of California cited PAYNE for violating its obligations to a client. The owners and employees filed this lawsuit alleging that the State forcing them to accompany the disabled JW Resident to a Kingdom Hall violated their own constitutional rights by requiring them to attend religious services of a faith not their own. However, the Los Angeles USDC dismissed their lawsuit, and the USCA affirmed. Does anyone really believe that if the plaintiff employees were Jehovah's Witnesses not wanting to attend a Catholic Church service that these two LEFT COAST "Injustices" would have ruled against them? What do you think would happen if PAYNE's employees were all JWs, and PAYNE fired all them for refusing to accompany a Catholic resident to Catholic Church services? The EEOC would nail PAYNE, and the USDC and USCA would rule in favor of the JWs.
FAIRBANKS v. BOARD OF REVIEW was an Ohio 1997 unemployment compensation case which involved a Jehovah's Witness Employee who was awarded UC benefits after he quit his job because his job duties required him to attend religious services at churches and/or synagogues, which he found offensive as a Jehovah's Witness. No further details. I suspect this case probably has something to do with some other brief internet snippets that I have stumbled across. It seems that back in the 1980s-90s, that several Jehovah's Witnesses were working for either an Ohio state agency or a state contractor, or both, which provided various personal services to people who were homebound or institutionalized, and who were elderly, retarded, disabled, or otherwise unable to do certain things for themselves. These JW Employees' duties included taking people to their doctor's appointments, shopping, etc, but pertinently, even to religious services at churches and synagogues. Apparently, this only involved transporting some "patients" to their religious services, but some patients required the JW Employees to assist them into and out of the services, and some patients' incapacities even required the JW Employees to stay alongside them during the services. This last scenario may have been the problem in FAIRBANKS, because various JW Employees were apparently filing complaints even in the instances where they were only required to assist patients into and out of services.
Since posting the above, I found a similar case filed in Canada with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission in 2002. There, a Jehovah's Witness sought part-time employment in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. In the interview, the JW supposedly explained that they were a JW, and that their Watchtower religious beliefs would prevent them from performing certain duties. When Christmas time roled around, the JW Employee was asked to transport and supervise residents during a Christmas concert trip held at a local church. The JW initially refused, but gave in. Shortly thereafter, the JW Employee was asked to bake a birthday cake for one of the residents. This time the JW Employee stood their ground. An argument insued, and the JW resigned. After filing a formal complaint with the MHRC, the MHRC ruled in the JW's favor granting $4000 in backpay, and requiring agency management to attend training sessions on how to accomodate the religious beliefs of employees.
In 1988-89, a yet-to-be-identified female Jehovah's Witness in Osceola County, Florida, filed formal complaints and probably a lawsuit against the Osceola Children's Home and its adminsitration for alleged violation of her constitutional right to religious freedom. The former JW employee alleged that administrators had attempted to force her to accompany children to church while she was working as a "house parent" at the Children's Home. The former JW employee was disciplined and possibly terminated after she refused.
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