Victim of a workplace Bible pest is awarded a large payout

Victim of a workplace Bible pest is awarded a large payout July 10, 2019

A Bible-thumping homophobic civil servant has cost the Californian city of San Diego $300,000.

Screenshot via NBC7/San Diego Downtown News/Sande Lollis

Sheila Beale, above, a Deputy Director of the City’s Archives and Records Management Department, was the subject of a lawsuit launched by a fellow employee, Rasean Johnson, that alleged Beale was a religious bully who imposed her views on colleagues.

Johnson, according to court documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates, started working for the City as a Records Stock Clerk in 2004. For a number of years, Johnson worked alongside then-records analyst, and current Deputy Director, Beale.

In the years that followed, Johnson says Beale began to “inject” her religious beliefs into him and others in the office.

The first incident, according to the lawsuit, occurred in 2008 as voters were asked to vote on Proposition 8, a ballot initiative which would have prevented same-sex marriage in California.

Beale asked Johnson if he thought it was “okay if gays marry”. When Johnson replied that he had no problem with people marrying whomever they want, Beale told him he was “not a child of God”.

Another worker overheard the conversation, according to the lawsuit, and reported it to then-Deputy Director Katherine Joy.

Johnson lodged a formal complaint with the city in October 2015. The city found enough evidence to verify Johnson’s complaint. But, in an astonishing move, officials opted to transfer Johnson and leave Beale in place as Deputy Director.

Two years later Johnson lodged a civil complaint that said:

Johnson used to look at the City’s official seal as a source of pride and inspiration but now its maxim, Semper Vigilans (‘ever vigilant’), seems ironic and hypocritical. Johnson had done everything in his power to stem Beale’s inappropriate conduct: participating in mediation, ignoring her derogatory comments, and avoiding unnecessary interactions.

But Beale persisted. Even after the City’s investigation confirmed Beale had engaged in unlawful conduct, it took no action against her and, instead, stripped Johnson of his Supervisor job title and transferred him to a remote job site.

In his complaint, Johnson alleged Beale began leading “prayer sessions” in her new role as Deputy Director and urged her employees to attend church.

During a subsequent performance review, Beale allegedly cautioned Johnson that he should start reading his Bible, adding:

Even good people go to hell if they don’t give their life to the work of God.

Beale, allegedly, went so far as to instruct other employees not to follow Johnson’s orders:

Because he was a non-believer.

Johnson was later demoted from his supervisor position.

A federal jury found the city placed Johnson in an “adverse employment action.” The jury initially awarded Johnson $350,000 but that amount was later reduced to $300,000, due to federal guidelines.

Members of the jury also found that the city removed Johnson from his position for reporting Beale, and that he suffered emotionally from Beale’s treatment.

Attorney Dan Eaton specialises in employment law and is not connected with this case. Eaton says employers are required to protect all employees regardless of religious affiliation, or lack of.

A lot of people think there’s only workplace sex harassment but a hostile work environment can include harassment based on race, religion, and gender. You have to be careful, because to the extent that it affects the environment of those who don’t share the employee’s religious beliefs, that’s where you run into conflict.

A city spokesperson confirmed that Beale is still employed as a Deputy Director. According to a compensation report obtained by NBC 7, Beale earned $121,679 in 2018.

Rasean Johnson now works as an administrative aide.

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