After Denying Man Job for Not Being Christian Enough, Company Will Have to Pay Him $82,500

If you run a company, you can’t screen potential employees for their religious views. That should be obvious, but it’s a fact that’s ignored time and time again, despite the Civil Rights Act.

In 2011, Edward Wolfe applied for an “operations supervisor position” at Voss Lighting in Tulsa, Oklahoma. During the interview process, Wolfe was asked repeatedly about his religious beliefs:

Wolfe allegedly was asked to identify every church he has attended over the past several years, where and when he was “saved” and the circumstances that led to that event, and whether he “would have a problem” coming into work early to attend Bible study before clocking in for the day.

The lawsuit recounts an alleged conversation in which one of the managers purportedly told Wolfe that the majority of Voss’ employees were Southern Baptist, “but that it wasn’t required that you go to a Southern Baptist Church. As long as you were a ‘born-again’ Christian, it didn’t matter what church you attended.

There’s good news to report after all this time. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, defending Wolfe, announced that the case has been settled in his favor:

A Nebraska company will pay $82,500 and comply with various conditions to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit…

In addition to the $82,500 payment to Wolfe, the consent decree settling the suit also requires Voss Lighting to undertake company-wide actions designed to prevent future religious discrimination, including the posting of an EEOC notice specifically prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of religion at its various locations spanning 12 states, re-dissemination of anti-discrimination policies; periodic reporting to the EEOC of specified hiring information; religion-neutral job advertising; and the training of management on religious discrimination.

The EEOC points out why this is a necessary outcome:

Refusing to hire a qualified job applicant because his religious beliefs do not comport with those of the employer’s leadership is illegal, even if the for-profit company purports to have a religious mission or purpose,” said Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office. “The evidence in this case suggested widespread religious discrimination throughout the company, not just its Oklahoma locations. The EEOC is optimistic that the corporate-wide remedial actions agreed to by Voss Lighting will put an end to the role religion plays in its decisions affecting applicants and employees. If not, we will be back in court again.”

Hopefully, the decision will send a message to other employers: You can’t discriminate in the name of Jesus. Or, I guess, if you’re going to discriminate, stop being so stupidly overt about it.

(Thanks to Beau for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • baal

    ” whether he “would have a problem” coming into work early to attend Bible study before clocking in for the day.”

    I use my pre-work time to help my son get ready to go to school or sometimes to go to the gym. Why does Voss lighting hate the family and fitness?

    • Bayesian Bouffant

      Since it is termed “early” I presume it would be off the clock; i.e. unpaid.

    • SeekerLancer

      I remember when I was a kid the factory my dad worked at was sold to a fundamentalist Christian who tried to do this very thing. Of course the factory workers told him where he could shove it.

      Unrelated: The plant closed down not long after this because the idiot had no idea how to run a business.

  • Guest

    I’m curious about something. After Edward gets the $82,500, how much will he still owe his lawyers?

    • Guesty Guest

      Commissions can range anywhere from 15-40%, though 40 is very rare.

    • Sven2547

      Wolfe was represented by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is a government agency. I’m not sure he owes them a dime.

      • 3lemenope

        If he was represented directly by the EEOC, he certainly doesn’t owe them a dime. It is not rare for a person in that situation to also retain private counsel, who may work per hour or on commission.

  • johnlev

    Said it before, I’ll say it again … You’re hiring an employee, not buying a slave. I am glad to hear this but unfortunately, this will just encourage the company to seek “other methods” for keeping out “undesirables”.

    • mike

      The unfortunately doesn’t justify the legal system not trying. Yes, there are racist, sexist, all sorts of bad organizations who will discriminate in hiring people and, realistically, it can’t be stopped.

      But we have to try, otherwise what’s the point of having a society?

    • Valancy Jane

      Oh indeed. I’m a woman, so I’m well aware of the tricks employers use to ferret out whether or not I have kids or if I’ll ever want them. A jerk doesn’t have to flat-out ask a woman about her family life to learn that information. Put a framed photo of children on the desk to see if she volunteers the information. Walk her out the door to see if you can catch a glimpse of a car seat in her car or a “baby on board” thing in the window. Or, and this is a really vile trick, just make a big point of closing your pen and setting it down on the desk. Applicants always figure that’s the end of the interview at that point and now they can be themselves “off the books”–and those wishing to learn potentially damaging information can get just THE most astonishing stuff that way.

      I’ve heard that in Mormon-heavy states, an applicant for social security or government jobs has a much better chance of getting what they want if they put a little doodle of a beehive near their signature, but that might be an urban legend.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley
    • Quintin van Zuijlen

      Given the Daily Mail’s reputation, I’ll hold out any outrage untill a ruling or settlement has been made.

    • Steve Bowen

      Looks like a bizarre situation if it actually happened. I’ll acknowledge my own prejudices but the persecution complex of some christians would lead me to suspect there is nothing really amiss here

    • Gus Snarp

      If true, it would be wrong of the employer, but it appears to be he said/she said at this point. I expect there would have to be some evidence. If, as the employers claim, they already have other Christian employees and can show that, then this guy’s claim is toast without anything but his word to go on. But this line from the group supporting him makes me wonder about their motivations, honesty, and general approach:

      ‘There’s no place for this anti-Christian intolerance at the hands of aggressive atheists. It’s high time the Government took the issue more seriously.’

      Man, if there’s really so much anti-Christian intolerance in the UK, maybe I should move there. I don’t like discrimination either direction, but if it’s going on either way, I might as well be on the winning side, right?

      • Aegis

        Speaking as a Brit, there’s *no* trend of anti-Christianism here other than sarcasm and a general lack of taking the whole thing seriously. The vast majority – 99%, minimum – of complaints they have are from losing privileges they used to have or think they should always have had.

        We’ve had churches in charge before, and some of the older buildings still have the spikes where they would mount people’s heads for asking the wrong question or loving the wrong person or owning a bible in the wrong language. We’ve learned our lesson, as a culture.

        • Gus Snarp

          I really assumed as much. I think the line I quoted is beyond hyperbole, but you know, I’m not British, and I’ve only spent a total of a week in the most touristy bits of the UK. Now if you could just get around to properly severing church and state and getting those church seats out of the House of Lords….

          Funny, isn’t it, culturally you’re much less religious and have fewer problems with religions trying to insert themselves where they don’t belong, but as a matter of law and government, you’ve still got all this entanglement

          • Aegis

            Ahahaha, wouldn’t it be weird if that were causative? Religion over here feeling like it’s got less to prove?

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        FTA: “She said that judging from my work I was clearly a committed Christian, and I understood from what she was saying that it would be very difficult for me to work there.”

        I’m betting his artwork is obnoxiously in-your-face CHRISTIAN in nature.

  • Randomfactor

    And stop trying to impose your religion’s beliefs on–say–birth control, on your employees’ health insurance.

  • C Peterson

    They need a new tagline: Lighting by the unenlightened, since 1939.

  • http://twitter.com/cryofly anuran

    In the beginning was the Word, and the word was whatever the heck it is. Then god wished for Voss Lighting. Then there was light. Then came the people who started thinking rationally. And that is going to cost Voss Lighting $82,500. Hope Voss learnt the lesson.

    • Valancy Jane

      Nah, they’ll be griping about persecution to everybody who will stand still long enough to listen at church this Sunday.

      • http://twitter.com/cryofly anuran

        I agree. That is the nature of religious fanaticism. Nothing to learn on earth!

  • Gus Snarp

    This decision is some of the best news I’ve heard on the religious discrimination front in a while. I’ve been very depressed lately on where we seem to be headed, so I’m glad to hear this.

  • LesterBallard

    Hooray!

  • Troglodyke

    And yet, there is absolutely no Xtian fish in their logo at all.

    Weird.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    *Snoopy Dance*

  • http://twitter.com/ylaenna M. Elaine

    Or, I guess, if you’re going to discriminate, stop being so stupidly overt about it.

    To some bible-thumpers, not being overt about it means:
    “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this
    adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be
    ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X