A new lawsuit alleges a North Carolina company retaliated against employees who didn’t participate in “cult-like” Christian prayer meetings, including by allegedly cutting their pay and ultimately firing them.
Per NBC News, the religious discrimination suit—filed this week by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—sees two former employees of the home service and repair company Aurora Pro Services alleging they were fired for not joining in these “ranting” prayer sessions.
The former employees, John McGaha and Mackenzie Saunders, said the unlawful practice of requiring prayer meeting participation and the threats of loss of employment made for a “hostile work environment.” According to McGaha, the owner of the company—who is not named in the suit—told employees they “have to participate” in prayer meetings. Saunders, meanwhile, said the meetings had become “cult-like.”
In a press release, Melinda C. Dugas,—an attorney for EEOC in the Charlotte area—noted that requiring participation in prayer meetings in a work setting is an unlawful practice.
“Federal law protects employees from having to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs and their jobs,” Dugas said. “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.”
Prior to the filing of the suit, the EEOC says efforts were made to agree to a settlement. The suit—which cites Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for both former employees. An injunctive relief is also being sought that would facilitate the ceasing of the discriminatory practice moving forward.
Notably, the lawsuit’s announcement comes amid coverage of a recent Supreme Court decision focused on prayer, specifically of the football-focused variety.