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Demoted For ‘Lack of Faith,’ Worker Claims

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) - A restaurant owner demoted a manager, telling him his "faith was not strong enough," because he refused to hand out Christian tracts to his workers, the man claims in court.

John Pettygrove sued John 21:5 Inc., dba When Eddie Met Salad, in Federal Court.

The restaurant in Indianapolis "does business as When Eddie Met Salad, but is officially named after a verse in the New Testament," according to the complaint.

Pettygrove says he worked as a manager at When Eddie Met Salad from October 2010 to July 2012.

In May 2012, the restaurant's ownership changed, and "one of the new owners, Russell Burns, began to distribute religious tracts to plaintiff, indicating that the daily 'devotional' was to be shared with the 'Team' at the restaurant. The 'devotionals' included quotes from the Bible and how such quotes were to be applied, apparently in an attempt to enhance work performance," the complaint states.

"The religious tracts were emailed to plaintiff by Mr. Burns on a regular basis.

"Plaintiff did not share the religious tracts with his subordinate employees and found them offensive," Pettygrove says.

He continues: "Mr. Burns also advised plaintiff on a regular basis that if he kept his faith in God strong it would keep the company strong, and that the company is centered around God. When Mr. Burns made such comments, plaintiff did not respond.

"On July 17, 2012, Mr. Burns met with plaintiff and advised him that he would not longer be the manager. Mr. Burns stated that plaintiff's 'faith' was not 'strong enough.'"

Pettygrove says he received a bonus four days before he was demoted, after the restaurant passed a Board of Health inspection with no violations.

"Defendant illegally conditioned plaintiff's job upon his adherence to Mr. Burn's views of appropriate religious beliefs and practices," the complaint states.

Pettygrove seeks reinstatement, back pay and punitive damages for religious discrimination.

He is represented by Mary Jane Lapointe in Indianapolis.

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