A recent case reminds us of two workplace truths: 1) An organization can’t force religion down an employee’s throat, and 2) That same organization can’t retaliate against a worker who complains of such force-feeding.  

Ken Woodard was a mechanical engineer at Turner Machine Company in Smyrna, TN. Problems began for Woodard when he voiced concerns about mandatory employee meetings called “huddles,” which occurred every morning.

At the huddles, employees would discuss milestones occurring in their personal lives including their religious affiliations and church activities.  Woodard opposed this practice, and subsequently filed a discrimination charge.  The charge with the EEOC was resolved through an informal mediation process, the agency said.

But then Turner Machine fired Woodard. He went back to the EEOC, which filed suit against Turner for retaliation. The matter couldn’t be hashed out in a voluntary pre-litigation settlement, but after the EEOC went to federal court, Turner agreed to settle.

The tab? $80,000.

Besides the monetary relief, the four-year consent decree settling the suit requires that Turner Machine maintain a written policy prohibiting future discrimination in the workplace, including retaliation.  To further ensure the effective implementation of the anti-discrimination policy, Turner Machine will also conduct training on Title VII for its employees.

The decree also requires that Turner Machine post in its facility a notice containing the terms of the settlement.


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