Atheist employee fired for refusing to attend company’s Christian prayer in NC, FBI say

A home repair company’s mandatory daily Christian prayer sessions for its employees became “less tolerable” for an atheist construction manager who refused to continue — resulting in his dismissal in North Carolina, federal officials said in a lawsuit.

His boss told him, “He didn’t have to believe in God, and he didn’t have to like the prayer meetings, but he had to joinbefore the employee was fired in the fall of 2020, according to a complaint filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Greensboro-based company. This came after his salary was cut in half.

The employee was asked to conduct a prayer session once, despite disclosing his beliefs, before losing his job at Aurora Pro Services, the EEOC said.

Now the company is being sued for religious discrimination and is accused of punishing workers who refused to attend the meetings, which also involved Bible readings and roll call, the agency said in a press release dated Tuesday, June 28. The meetings were mandatory from at least June 2020.

This comes after another employee, a customer service representative, was fired in January 2021 after she found the meetings, which lasted nearly an hour, were becoming “cult-like” and stopped attending due to her agnostic beliefs, according to the lawsuit. An agnostic individual does not commit to any conception of the existence of a higher religious power.

McClatchy News contacted the company on June 28 for comment and is awaiting a response.

On its website, Aurora Pro Services states, “We will never hire rude people, and we will strip anyone who doesn’t use their best manners.”

The obligatory meetings

According to a complaint, the company owner, who was known for his “hot-tempered and confrontational” nature, held the prayer meetings as part of the “business model”. This was a base to remain in service.

However, the requirement is not advertised on the career page of the company’s website, which states what is expected of those applying there.

At the daily prayer sessions, workers gathered in a circle while the company owner or another person would pray, the complaint said. Occasionally the leader of the session would ask for prayer requests.

Sometimes these requests were “offered to underperforming employees” who, according to the EEOC, were called out for mistakes in front of their peers.

When it came to the meeting’s bible readings, the former customer service representative said it came across as “frenzy” and eventually her boss started having everyone sing “the Catholic version of the Lord’s Prayer in unison,” the indictment said.

Before refusing to attend the meetings in full, the former construction manager offered to attend parts of them, according to the EEOC.

However, his boss said “it would be in his ‘best interest'” to attend the sessions in their entirety, the indictment says.

The atheist employee’s objections led to his base salary being cut in half on Sept. 3, 2020 — from $800 to $400 a week — ahead of his resignation, according to the EEOC.

The agency’s lawsuit is aimed at fining Aurora Pro Services for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from religious discrimination, and awarding monetary benefits to the two former employees, the press release said. .

“Employers who sponsor workplace prayer meetings are required by law to accommodate employees whose personal religious or spiritual views conflict with company practice,” Melinda C. Dugas, the EEOC district attorney in Charlotte, said in a statement. a statement.

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