Federal Agency Charges Company Required Employees to Participate in Scientology Religious Practices, Fired Two for Refusing to Participate
MIAMI - Dynamic Medical Services, Inc., a Miami company owned by Dr. Dennis Nobbe and which provides medical and chiropractic services, violated federal law by requiring employees to attend courses that involved Scientology religious practices, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's suit, the company 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.
Requiring employees to conform to religious practices and beliefs espoused by the employer, creating a hostile work environment, and failing to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of an employee all violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit, EEOC v. Dynamic Medical Services, Inc., (Case No. 1:13-cv-21666), seeks back pay for Rodriguez and Sanchez, compensatory and punitive damages for all named claimants and a class of individuals subjected to a hostile work environment and disparate treatment, and injunctive relief ordering the company to stop requiring employee participation in courses involving religious practices, among other types of injunctive relief.
"Employees' freedom from religious coercion at the workplace must be protected," said Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC's Miami District Office. "These actions are a shameful violation of federal law."
The EEOC's Miami District director, Malcolm Medley, said, "When an employer makes an employment decision based on employees' failure to adopt the employer's religious beliefs, it violates federal law. The EEOC will act vigorously to protect the rights of workers who are subjected to religious harassment and coercion in the workplace."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The Miami District Office's jurisdiction includes Florida, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's website at www.eeoc.gov.