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San Diego jury awards $300K in workplace religious discrimination suit

by | Jul 17, 2019

It should go without saying, in the year 2019, that supervisors should not push their religious beliefs on subordinates in the workplace. Instead, by every statistical measure, workplace religious harassment and discrimination remains a significant problem. Too many workers are victimized by an impossible choice: give in to the boss’s religious overtures or face some form of retaliation.

A federal jury spoke loudly and clearly against such behavior earlier this year, issuing a verdict requiring the City of San Diego to pay $300,000.00 to Rasean Johnson, a city employee who faced continued religious harassment and proselytization at the hands of his supervisor, Sheila Beale.

After obtaining court documents, NBC San Diego describes the behavior that led to the verdict in an investigative report:

In his complaint, Johnson alleged Beale began leading “prayer sessions” in her new role as Deputy Director and urged her employees to attend church.

During a subsequent performance review, Beale allegedly cautioned Johnson that he should start reading his bible, adding, “even good people go to hell if they don’t give their life to the work of God.”

Beale, allegedly, went so far as to instruct other employees not to follow Johnson’s orders “because he was a non-believer.

If you are looking for a model of inappropriate boss behavior when it comes to religion, look no further than the court documents in this case. The Deputy Director here Informed Johnson that he is “not a child of God” because of his views, led prayer sessions in the workplace and invited employees to church regularly, used a performance review as the occasion to urge employees to read the Bible, and most remarkably, undermined Johnson’s supervisory role by telling his subordinates “not to follow [his] orders ‘because he was a non-believer.’”

Workplace religious harassment is bad for both the workplace and for religion, which is done no favors by coercion, whether subtle or not-so-subtle. It’s also against the law. It’s long past time for employers to get the message.