DALLAS (CN) – A Dallas-area medical practice fired four employees for refusing to attend morning Bible discussions or after judging their personal lives, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday in a federal lawsuit.
The EEOC sued Dr. Tim Shepherd, of Lewisville, on behalf of former employees Almeda Gibson, Courtney Maldonado, Stacy O’Laughlin and Joshua Stoner. It claims Gibson, a Buddhist, made repeated requests for religious accommodation that were denied and that her requests to be excused from the religious portion of the required meetings were ignored.
“These meetings typically began each workday morning with a reading or study of Biblical verses and principles and included a discussion of how the religious principles could be related or applied to the personal lives of the employees,” the 9-page complaint states. “These mandatory meetings were usually led by the business owners, Dr. Timothy Shepherd or his wife Virginia Shepherd.”
The EEOC says Maldonado was “transferred” from clinical supervisor to medical assistant after she told the Shepherds that “she believed it was wrong to require employees to attend meetings at which a specific religion is discussed in such detail.” She was transferred to the new job a week later.
“The day after Ms. Maldonado’s transfer, the Shepherds called a meeting with Ms. Maldonado and the employees she had supervised as clinical supervisor and told the group that Ms. Maldonado had been removed from that position because she was not leading them property, was not following Christ, and was not seeing the Shepherd’s vision,” the complaint states.
“The following week, in early March 2016, Mrs. Shepherd called Ms. Maldonado and another employee into her office and told them both that they needed to be ‘more Godly’ and ‘wash the feet’ of others. Ms. Maldonado was fired on March 9, 2016.”
O’Laughlin was fired one month after Shepherd’s wife told her that being a single mother was “not what God wanted” for her, the complaint states.
Stoner was fired after he refused Ms. Shepherd’s “insistence that he attend premarital counseling because he was living with his girlfriend,” according to the EEOC.
The agency says it filed the lawsuit after trying to reach a pre-suit settlement through conciliation.
“Of course, employers and employees are not required to leave their own religious beliefs at home when they walk through the workplace door,” EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Meaghan L. Shepard said in a statement. “However, the law requires that employers reasonably accommodate requests to be excused from company-sponsored religious activities rather than firing employees who seek such accommodation.”
Shepherd’s office could not be reached for comment after office hours Wednesday.
The EEOC seeks an injunction, back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for religious discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Lewisville, pop. 103,000, in Denton County, is a northwest suburb of Dallas. Its economic profile falls close to the state median, according to city-data.com.