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Bible Study Wasn’t in the Deal, Worker Says

VISALIA, Calif. (CN) - A California spa fired a receptionist for missing an unpaid, weekly two-hour Bible study at the owner's house, the worker claims in court.

Haley Talley sued Sequoia Laser Aesthetics, its owner Katrina Stanic, and Stanic's husband Miroslav Stanic dba Sequoia Dental Office, in Tulare County Court.

In addition to the mandatory, unpaid nighttime Bible study, Talley says, Katrina Stanic altered her timecard to cheat her of overtime.

Talley didn't last long at her job, which turned out to be two jobs, the second one at the dental clinic, she says in the Dec. 3 complaint. She says Katrina Stanic interviewed her for the receptionist job at the spa on Sept. 2.

"During the interview, Katrina made a number of inappropriate inquiries into Talley's religious affiliation. Katrina asked Talley whether she believed in God and advised that she was looking to hire someone who would be able to attend weekly off-duty Bible study sessions at Katrina's home. Katrina acknowledged during the interview that she knew she should not be asking such questions," according to the complaint.

Talley, who is Christian, says she agreed to go to Bible study in hopes of getting the job. Soon after she was hired, Katrina Stanic, a Seventh-day Adventist, made her participate in group prayers and pray with her at the spa, she says.

"Talley was uncomfortable with the process and felt Katrina was attempting to force her religious beliefs on Talley, but participated out of fear of adverse treatment if she refused," the complaint states.

Talley says she dutifully attended Bible study every Thursday evening for two hours after work, for which she was not paid, though attendance was mandatory.

When she missed a Bible study due to a family emergency, she says, the next day at work Katrina "was angry that Talley had missed Bible study and advised Talley that she needed to work out her schedule with her family so that she would not miss sessions in the future. Katrina advised Talley she needed to make Bible study a 'priority."

Six weeks after Talley started the spa job, she got a second job on nights and weekends to supplement her income. Though it did not interfere with her work at the spa, it meant she could not attend Bible study. This did not sit well with Katrina Stanic.

When Katrina texted her to remind her about the Bible study, Talley says, she responded that she could not longer attend due to her other job. At the end of her shift, she got a text from Katrina "advising her that she was terminated, effective immediately."

When she asked why she was being fired, Katrina told her to expect a "termination letter" in the mail. It arrived four days later, and "vaguely advised Talley that she was being terminated because she was hired to work in an environment with 'minimal supervision' that required 'selfmotivation' [sic] and "iniciative' [sic] and Talley had shown these traits were not her strong suits," though all her performance reviews had been positive, according to the complaint.

Talley claims the Stanics altered her time sheets to avoid paying overtime, refused to give her wage statements during her employment, and withheld her final paycheck.

She claims Miroslav Stanic made her work as a billing clerk at his dental office though she had not interviewed for that position or filled out any paperwork for it.

Sequoia Laser Aesthetics did not return an emailed request for comment on Friday afternoon.

Talley seeks lost wages and punitive damages for medical expenses, emotional distress, religious discrimination, retaliation, overtime violations, wage and hour violations, and other violations of the Labor Code.

She also wants the court to order the defendants to comply with state and federal labor laws.

She is represented by Robert Wasserman with Mayall Hurley of Stockton, who did not immediately return an email request for comment.

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