A lawsuit filed Monday by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims that two employees at a North Carolina-based company were fired for not participating in the daily Christian prayer meetings. The complaint was filed on behalf of John McGaha (an atheist) and Mackenzie Saunders (an agnostic) against Aurora Pro Services, a company that handles roofing, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and electrical services.
According to the lawsuit, Aurora Pro Services 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 say 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 even more. 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 is that both employees made reasonable requests, but the company refused to accommodate their beliefs. They were fired, the lawsuit says, 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.”
Let’s be clear: None of this is anti-Christian. No one is saying the Christian boss can’t have Christian prayers at his company. But the Christian boss has no right to force his religion on employees who just want to do their jobs and collect a damn paycheck.
The irony is that the company advertises itself as a place where a few rules are paramount, including “We believe you should feel respected” and “We believe you should be listened to.” Those rules are aimed at the customers… and no one else apparently. Employees don’t get respect, and employees aren’t listened to, unless those employees go along with the Christian proselytizing. In case you’re wondering, being a Christian isn’t listed as a prerequisite to get a job there.
This is hardly the first time an atheist has been 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. The claims in this lawsuit, if accurate, are textbook examples of workplace discrimination. Where are all those right-wing voices who love to call themselves defenders of religious freedom?