Can’t Do That, EEOC|Tells ‘Christian’ Firm


     (CN) – The EEOC sued Voss Lighting, claiming it refused to hire a man after asking him during a job interview if he had been “saved,” and whether he “‘would have a problem’ coming into work early to attend Bible study before clocking in.”



     The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission sued Voss Electric Co. dba Voss Lighting, in Tulsa Federal Court, on behalf of Edward Wolfe, who allegedly was grilled about his religious beliefs during a series of interviews in early 2011.
     Voss’s Internet home page claims the company has offices “in 16 key cities across the United States.”
     “Voss Lighting generally considers itself and its employees to be Christian,” the EEOC says in its federal complaint. The two Voss entities are the only named defendants, though several of their supervisors are identified in the complaint.
     Voss’s operations supervisor Joshua Silva listed the job on the Internet board of his church, the First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, on Jan. 17, 2011, according to the complaint.
     Wolfe replied to the post a month later and was asked if he attended Broken Arrow, to which he replied “not yet.”
     Silva interviewed Wolfe at Voss’ Tulsa store on Feb. 23, 2011, and said Wolfe was a “perfect fit” and that he “would hire Wolfe if it was his decision,” but referred Wolfe to Randy Tidwell, a branch manager, the EEOC says.
     Wolfe and Tidwell then exchanged emails, “discussing in detail Wolfe’s religious affiliations and activities,” and the men spoke over the phone on Feb. 25, 2011.
     During the call, “Tidwell interrogated Wolfe about his religious practices and beliefs, including asking Wolfe to identify every church he has attended over the past several years; where and when Wolfe was ‘saved,’ and the circumstances that led up to it; and asking whether Wolfe ‘would have a problem’ coming into work early to attend bible study before clocking-in. Throughout the interview, Tidwell expressed overt agitation and disapproval at Wolfe’s responses to his religious line of questioning,” the complaint states.
     Tidwell said that most Voss employees were Southern Baptist, but told Wolfe, “as long as you were a ‘born-again’ Christian, it didn’t matter what church you attended,” according to the complaint.
     However, “Following his interview by Tidwell, Wolfe was never offered the operations supervisor position and never heard from Voss Lighting,” the EEOC says.
     A mission statement on Voss’s website touts the company’s religious commitment.
     “Our biblical mission is to ‘sell’ our lighting products so that we may ‘tell’ everyone we can about God’s soul-saving, life-transforming gospel message as Jesus instructed believers to do,” according to the website.
     The EEOC seeks lost wages and punitive damages for religious discrimination, pain and suffering and “malice or reckless indifference to (Wolfe’s) federally protected rights.”
     It is represented by Patrick Holman of Oklahoma City.

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