EEOC sues hospice agency for religious discrimination

EMPLOYMENT LAW — 6/8/06

EEOC sues hospice agency for religious discrimination
A Lumberton, North Carolina hospice agency violated federal antidiscrimination law when it required an employee to attend a “prayer circle” and fired her because she objected to the practice and refused to attend, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on June 1, 2006.

According to the EEOC, the employee, Dorene Sampson, who is a Jehovah’s Witness, was working as a registered nurse for the hospice. The complaint alleges that Sampson was required to regularly attend a “prayer circle” from about January until March 2005. In March 2005, she refused to attend the mandatory prayer circle and was fired as a result.

The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief. “In a society that values religious freedom, you would expect it to be common sense that employers cannot force their employees to take part in a religious ceremony as a condition of their continued employment,” said Reuben Daniels, Jr., Director of the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Retaliating against an employee for objecting to a discriminatory practice is also illegal, and only makes a bad situation worse. The EEOC will continue to vigorously enforce federal laws which prohibit this type of conduct.”

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