Did this store owner go overboard with proselytizing his religious beliefs? Sherri Chafin was hired to work for Tabor Market & Deli in Iowa in September 2011.
Store owner Tyler Stille says it’s clear his faith is an important part of his business. A Christian fish symbol is part of the store’s sign, the store plays Christian music “all the time” and he tells interviewees about his faith.
Chafin worked for Stille for four months without any problems, stating that Stille’s beliefs “didn’t bother [her] one bit.” In fact, Stille said that he and Chafin discussed religious matters on several occasions.
But their work relationship took a drastic turn in January 2012.
‘Are you on food stamps?’
Around that time, Stille called Chafin into his office. Though accounts differ as to why, both agree that Stille lectured Chafin on religious beliefs. Chafin said that Stille:
- questioned her about her lifestyle, including the fact that she lived with her boyfriend but wasn’t married
- preached to her about the wisdom of King Solomon
- asked if she was receiving food stamps or on welfare
- called her a “crapster” and told her to “shut (up) and listen,” and
- said he planned on replacing her and would start looking for her successor.
Stille acknowledged that he’d asked his wife for a Bible before meeting with Chafin because he planned to read her some proverbs.
But he also claimed Chafin became belligerent and was crying hysterically, and that he was unable to communicate with her at all.
Either way, after the meeting, Chafin walked out of the store and never came back.
Guess where she works now
Then she filed for unemployment benefits. Stille fought the request.
An administrative law judge (ALJ) sided with Chafin, saying that Stille’s conduct was “inapproriate, unacceptable and unprofessional,” at best. The ALJ also said Stille had created an intolerable work environment.
The Des Moines Register quoted a legal director from the ACLU of Iowa as saying that “a certain amount of stating one’s opinion and beliefs is tolerated, but the courts have generally, I think, put themselves in the position of the person who is on the receiving end. If a reasonable person could conclude there is some pressure being applied, the employer could certainly be in trouble.”
In an odd conclusion to the case, Chafin has a new job at an Iowa business called Romantix — an adults-only sexual merchandise store in western Iowa.