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Christian-owned company will pay $50,000 to settle religious discrimination lawsuit
Two former employees, who are atheist and agnostic, said they were forced to participate in daily prayer meetings
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Aurora Pro Services, a North Carolina-based company that handles roofing, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and electrical services, will pay $50,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by two employees who said they were fired for not participating in daily Christian prayer meetings.
The lawsuit was filed just over a year ago by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of John McGaha (an atheist) and Mackenzie Saunders (an agnostic). The two of them said the company held daily prayer meetings where the boss read from the Bible and everyone had to recite Christian devotionals. There were prayer requests that called out “poor performing employees” by name. The entire thing resembled a church service rather than a contracting company.
McGaha and Saunders both worked there at separate times between 2020 and 2021, but both said the prayer meetings ran anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour—and attendance was taken. Which is to say this was a significant portion of their work day.
The problems for McGaha began when he was asked to lead the prayer… and said no. He later asked to be excused from the explicitly religious parts of the prayer meeting… but was denied. After that, his pay was slashed in half—from $800 a week to $400—and it wasn’t long before things escalated. McGaha stopped attending the meetings entirely, and he was quickly fired despite having a satisfactory job performance record.
Saunders’ situation wasn’t much different. After she stopped attending the daily prayer meetings, she was also fired and told she was “not a good fit” for the company.
The bottom line was that both employees made reasonable requests but the company refused to accommodate their beliefs. They were fired, the lawsuit said, only because of their religious beliefs, in violation of federal law.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religious discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court, Middle District of North Carolina… after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary relief for the two employees, including compensatory and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief against the company to end any ongoing discrimination based on religion and to take steps to prevent such unlawful conduct in the future.
“Federal law protects employees from having to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs and their jobs,” said Melinda C. Dugas, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “Employers who sponsor prayer meetings in the workplace have a legal obligation to accommodate employees whose personal religious or spiritual views conflict with the company’s practice.”
As we knew back then, none of this was anti-Christian. No one was saying the Christian boss couldn’t have Christian prayers at his company. But the Christian boss had no right to force his religion on employees who just wanted to do their jobs and collect a damn paycheck.
The irony was that the company advertised itself as a place where a few rules were paramount, including “We believe you should feel respected” and “We believe you should be listened to.”
Those rules were aimed at the customers… and no one else apparently.
Employees didn’t get respect, and employees weren’t listened to, unless those employees went along with the Christian proselytizing. (In case you were curious, being a Christian wasn’t listed as a prerequisite to get a job there.)
Yesterday, the EEOC announced that Aurora Pro Services had settled the case for $50,000, with $37,500 going to MaGaha (with about half to cover his legal fees) and $12,500 going to Saunders.
The consent decree also says the company will delete anything in their records suggesting the employees were fired for bad behavior (so that this issue doesn’t impact their future employment).
In addition to awarding damages to the affected employees, the three-year consent decree settling the suit prohibits the company from discriminating and retaliating against employees in violation of Title VII in the future. Aurora Pro Services will adopt and implement a new anti-discrimination, non-retaliation, and religious accommodation policy and provide training to all managers and employees, including the owner.
“Federal law protects employees from having to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs and their jobs,” said Melinda C. Dugas, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District. “Employers who sponsor prayer meetings in the workplace have a legal obligation to accommodate employees whose personal religious beliefs conflict with the company’s practice.”
Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. The company did everything wrong and decided to cut its losses rather than continue litigation. It’s the right decision after a series of bad ones.
This is hardly the first time an atheist was fired for not playing along with the religious ethos of a company’s leaders, and as far as I can tell, there’s been silence on this case from the usual band of Christians who whine about religious discrimination, usually in situations where no discrimination is actually taking place.
What happened at Aurora Pro Services were textbook examples of workplace discrimination. The supposed defenders of religious freedom said nothing because they’re fine with forced faith when it involves Christianity.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)
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