(CN) – A Muslim woman was discriminated against and fired by her Christian boss, who forced employees to pray to Jesus and tithe to his church, and falsely accused her of having a sexual relationship with a client, the woman claims in Bronx County Supreme Court.
Aretha Lacewell worked at the Addicts Rehabilitation Center as an expediter in the Health and Safety Department for five years until she was fired in September 2009.
The center’s director of internal affairs, Gary Carswell, is also the pastor of the New Life Better Christian Living Center.
He required his employees to recite a Christian prayer at the beginning and end of department meetings, during which he delivered sermons, Lacewell claims.
Carswell also allegedly pressured her to attend his church and coerced her into putting money into “tithe envelopes” for the church.
“When are you going to pay your tithes, girl?” Carswell allegedly asked her. “If you bless the church, God will bless you.”
When Lacewell stopped supporting the church, she says Carswell responded by suspending and demoting her.
On one occasion, Carswell allegedly told Lacewell to take his son across the street to buy him a sandwich with her own money. Carswell’s son ordered a bacon and egg sandwich, which is not compatible with Lacewell’s Muslim faith, so she refused to buy it, according to the lawsuit.
A short time later, Carswell “angrily told the plaintiff that she was suspended (without pay) for three weeks, and that if she made any complaint about it, she would be suspended for weeks,” the complaint states.
Carswell told her the suspension was because she had allowed clients in the lobby during a meeting, but Lacewell says that “was simply a pretense for the real reason: The plaintiff refused to buy Carswell’s son pork which was an affront to the plaintiff’s religious beliefs, and Carswell knew this.”
Carswell fired Lacewell after taking her Blackberry and examining her personal photos and text messages, she claims. He allegedly used this evidence to falsely accuse her of having a sexual relationship with a client.
Lacewell demands $1 million plus punitive damages from the center, Carswell, his church, and the center’s directors, Reginald Williams and James Allen, on claims of defamation, unjust enrichment and human rights violations.
She is represented by Patricia Micek with McMillan, Constabile, Maker & Perone in Larchmont, N.Y.