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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, February 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Surgeon Can’t Nip Mock Commandments Suit

(CN) - A Catholic woman who disapproved of work ID badges that set out an office version of the Ten Commandments must amend her claims, a federal judge ruled.

Cynthia Ambrose claimed that she routinely won praise for eight years of receptionist work at Gabay Cosmetic Surgery Center in Philadelphia. That allegedly changed in April 2011, when the practice designed a new employee-identification badge that listed 10 office rules on the back under the heading "Our Ten Commandments."

Ambrose, a self-described devout Roman Catholic, said she had religious objections to wearing the badge with the rules, but that the firm wrote her up and threatened to fire her after she complained.

She allegedly began wearing the badge at the bottom of her shirt, as opposed to around her neck as instructed, to protect her job, but continued speaking out against the lack of religious accommodation at Gabay.

After a few tense months, Gabay fired Ambrose in May 2011, under the pretense that she had improperly rescheduled some patients, according to the complaint.

Ambrose sued Gabay Ent & Associates P.C., Gabay Schwartz Ent & Associates P.C., and Raphael Gabay D.O. P.C. for violating her right to religious accommodation and firing her in retaliation for her discrimination complaint.

The cosmetic surgery practice moved to dismiss, likening Ambrose's claim to "refusing to use currency because it contains the phrase 'In God We Trust.'"

Gabay further claimed that Ambrose never told them she was Roman Catholic or that the office rules implicated her religious beliefs.

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson deferred ruling on the motion on Feb. 7, and gave Ambrose 10 days to amend her complaint.

"The court will give plaintiff an opportunity to amend the complaint so she can allege, with more specificity than in the present complaint, how or why wearing the badge dictated by defendants was offensive to her religious beliefs or failed to provide an adequate accommodation for her religious beliefs," Baylson wrote. "It is not clear from the complaint whether the plaintiff considered the badge as a 'parody' of the biblical Ten Commandments, or that there was some content within the badge that she found offensive to her religious beliefs or otherwise failed to accommodate her religious beliefs. The way the complaint reads now, the court may have to interpret it as being innocuous because there is no indication that the badge had anything more than employee instructions for how to perform one's occupation and had nothing to do with religion."

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