Workers in the City of Miami’s Capital Improvements Department were ‘freaked out’ when they discovered that oily crosses had been daubed on their desks by a co-worker who was subsequently sacked.
According to this report, Eric Cheeley arrived at work at his usual time, around 6 am. A devout Pentecostal, he liked to get there early to read his Bible.
But a couple of years back, he went overboard with his delusional beliefs. He blessed the office in which he worked, then walked from cubicle to cubicle, anointing his co-workers’ desks with oil, which he smeared in the shape of crosses.
Cheeley was already out in the field when his co-workers arrived at the office. They were “a bit freaked out”. One employee thought the crosses represented Santería; others worried it was some sort of workplace threat.
Police were called to investigate, and the office was shut down for the better part of the morning.
Back at work around lunchtime, Cheeley tried to explain what had happened.
I was sitting in my cubicle crying; I thought I heard what, in my opinion, was God telling me: ‘Look, just bless the department … and go on about your business.
His complaint said:
For the duration of his almost seven years of employment, Mr Cheeley was an exemplary employee [and] was never reprimanded in any way, except for the discriminatory termination and retaliation for the expression of his religious beliefs.
This month, however, a federal judge denied his claim, saying Cheeley failed to prove the city fired him on religious grounds rather than for damaging its property.
US District Judge Robert Scola Jr. wrote in his decision:
Cheeley’s application of the oily substance caused actual damage to his employer’s property and disrupted its business. These facts are undisputed.
Although Scola denied the federal claim, Cheeley can continue to fight the case in state court.