A medical practice and the physician who ran it have been hit with a $375,000 judgment in a federal lawsuit that accused the defendants of subjecting employees to a religiously hostile work environment.
The suit also said the defendants retaliated against employees who objected to required religious practices.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) accused Tim Shepherd and Shepherd Healthcare of engaging in religious discrimination by conducting mandatory daily meetings that involved prayer and a reading of biblical verses.
It said an employee who follows the principles of Buddhism was fired a day after she renewed a previous request to be excused.
In addition, the suit alleged that Shepherd Healthcare imposed religious practices on employees and fired other employees who expressed objections or opposition.
The allegations from the suit present a textbook example of one of the things Title VII bars employees from doing.
Consider this example from guidance offered by EEOC:
Michael’s employer requires that the mandatory weekly staff meeting begin with a religious prayer. Michael objects to participating because he believes it conflicts with his own sincerely held religious beliefs. He asks his supervisor to allow him to arrive at the meeting after the prayer. The supervisor must accommodate Michael’s religious belief by either granting his request or offering an alternative accommodation that would remove the conflict between Michael’s religious belief and the staff meeting prayer, even if other employees of Michael’s religion do not object to being present for the prayer. The outcome would be the same if Michael sought the accommodation based on his lack of religious belief.
To end the suit, the defendants will pay $375,000. Monetary relief will be provided to 10 former employees. In addition, the defendants must provide Title VII training to managers and employees.
Further, they are banned from requiring employees to engage in religious activities at work.