The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against the United Health Programs of America (and its parent company, Cost Containment Group) for violating its employees’ religious and civil rights. The company allegedly forced its workers to pray to thank God for their jobs, and then required they all say “I love you” to managers and co-workers. Anyone who protested was fired, according to the complaint filed by the EEOC.
This unusual policy was known as the Onionhead doctrine, and was created by the aunt of the company’s owner. According to the EEOC’s complaint, many employees were fired or demoted for not following this doctrine. Once instance detailed a situation where a worker complained that she was Catholic and did not want to participate in the prayers. One month later, she was removed from her office and relocated to an open customer service area. A Buddha statue was placed in her previous office instead. When she complained about what she perceived to be a demotion, her employment was terminated.
These practices have been allegedly been going on at United Health Programs of America since 2007. Former employees (who have quit and been fired) have claimed they were forced to chant, hold hands, talk about their personal feelings and always spend time with each other.
Attorneys for the company have spoken out claiming that the suit was meritless and would be summarily thrown out. The company itself released a statement denying any wrongdoing, also calling the claims meritless.
If it is determined that the company imposed the “Onionhead doctrine” on employees, it would be a gross violation of their first amendment rights, in addition to other potential violations. Owners of a company are not allowed to force religious beliefs on their employees and certainly aren’t allowed to make them take part in religious rituals, such as praying and chanting.
Team Law is one of the leading employment law practices in the state of New Jersey. If you’ve been discriminated against, treated unfairly or forced to work in a hostile environment, you may have cause to take legal action. Contact us today to discuss your case.