Workers Call Religious Publisher a Hypocrite

     VENTURA, Calif. (CN) – A Christian publisher persuaded workers to stay by offering fat bonuses it knew it couldn’t pay, though top bosses paid themselves an extra $116,000 before firing them, the workers say in court.
     Three workers sued Gospel Light, its CEO and two members of its board on June 24 in Ventura County Court.
     Gospel Light describes itself as “a leader in the publishing of Sunday school curriculum, vacation Bible school, Bible lessons and church ministry resources that help church leaders fulfill the mission of the church.” It began in 1933.
     “There’s a whole lot of hypocrisy involved in this,” the plaintiffs’ attorney Anthony Strauss told Courthouse News.
     “An organization that purports to be moral and faith-based to blatantly lie to its employees the way it did is certainly hypocritical.”
     Plaintiff William Bensen was the IT manager, Lonna Peters the director of human resources, and Christine Shay the web contest specialist.
     They say defendant CEO David Thornton told them in October 2014 that the company had to lay off workers, but offered the three of them healthy severance payments if they agreed to stay through Dec. 15.
     Thornton promised Peters $52,000 in severance, $26,000 to Bensen and $8,100 for Shay, according to the lawsuit. But all the defendants knew “well in advance of Dec. 15” that they would not pay up, the complaint states.
     “When Thornton told Peters that Gospel Light was not going to pay the severance pay as promised, he said, ‘I feel so bad about this. I’ve lost sleep. But I can’t get an investor if we pay the severance,’ or words to that effect,” according to the complaint.
     That didn’t stop the defendants from raising defendant directors Jane and Gary Greig’s salaries from $120,000 to $178,000 per year, just before telling the three they were being laid off and stiffed, the plaintiffs say.
     They want their severance payments, plus interest, and damages and punitive damages for breach of contract, promissory fraud, fraud by concealment, negligent misrepresentation, failure to pay wages and unfair competition.
     Gospel Light could not be reached for comment Friday.

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