Company Required Employees to Participate in Scientology Religious Practices, Fired Two for Refusing, Federal Agency Charged
MIAMI - Dynamic Medical Services, Inc., a Miami company owned by Dr. Dennis Nobbe which provides medical and chiropractic services, has agreed to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC charged in its suit that Dynamic Medical Services, Inc. ("DMS") required Norma Rodriguez, Maykel Ruz, Rommy Sanchez, Yanileydis Capote and other employees to spend at least half their work days in courses that involved Scientology religious practices, such as screaming at ashtrays or staring at someone for eight hours without moving. The company also instructed employees to attend courses at the Church of Scientology. Additionally, the company required Sanchez to undergo an "audit" by connecting herself to an "E-meter," which Scientologists believe is a religious artifact, and required her to undergo "purification" treatment at the Church of Scientology.
According to the EEOC's suit, employees repeatedly asked not to attend the courses but were told it was a requirement of the job. In the cases of Rodriguez and Sanchez, when they refused to participate in Scientology religious practices and/or did not conform to Scientology religious beliefs, they were terminated.
Such alleged practices violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion-which includes forcing employees to conform to a particular religion. The EEOC filed suit (Case No. 1:13-cv-21666KMW, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida) after first attempting to reach a settlement through its conciliation process.
According to the terms of the consent decree, which was approved by the U.S. District Court on December 23, 2013, DMS will pay $170,000 to settle the lawsuit. Payments will be made to the four named claimants Rodriguez, Ruz, Sanchez, Capote, and four other identified class members. The agreement also requires DMS to accommodate employees who complain about attending and/or participating in religious courses or other religious work-related activities for religious reasons; to notify EEOC if employees request a religious accommodation; to adopt an anti-discrimination policy that explains to employees their rights under Title VII with respect to religious discrimination; and to conduct training for DMS employees covering Title VII, and specifically focusing on religious discrimination.
"We are pleased that we have been able to secure relief for all claimants and class members, and to ensure that policies are in place to prevent religious discrimination at DMS," said Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC's Miami District. "The law is clear: An employer cannot force his or her religion on staff by mandating that employees practice or espouse a certain religion, and cannot refuse to accommodate employees after they object to such discriminatory employment practices."
Malcolm Medley, director of the EEOC's Miami District, added, "I am proud of the work our investigators and legal team did in this case. Employers cannot make participation in religious practices a mandatory condition of employment. Moreover, employees who object to such mandatory practices and request an accommodation cannot be in fear of retaliation."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. The Miami District Office's jurisdiction includes Florida, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.