Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Miami Chiropractic Office Pays $170,000 To Settle Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

            Dynamic Medical Services, Inc. (DMS), a Miami company owned by Dr.  Dennis Nobbe which provides medical and chiropractic services, has agreed to settle a religious discrimin­ation lawsuit filed against it in the federal district court in Miami by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

            According to the EEOC, DMS had required its employees to participate in Scientology religious training and practices, and fired two of them for refusing to do so.

            Dynamic has two clinical locations, one at 8303 S.W. 40th Street (Bird Road) in Miami, and the other at 1685 West 49th Street, Suite #1104, in Hialeah, at the Westland Mall.

            The EEOC’s investigation disclosed that DMS required its employees to spend at least half their work days in courses that involved  Scientology religious practices, such as screaming at ashtrays or staring at  someone for eight hours without moving.  The company also instructed employees to attend courses at a Church of Scientology.  Additionally, the company required one employee to undergo an "audit" by connect­ing herself to an Electropsychometer or "E-meter," which Scientologists believe is a religious artifact, and required her to undergo "purification" treatment at the Church of Scientology. 

            According to the EEOC's suit, employees repeatedly asked not to attend the religious courses, but were told that it was a requirement of their jobs.  When two of them – one a Jehovah’s Witness -- refused to participate in Scientology religious practices and objected to conforming to Scientology religious beliefs, they were terminated from their jobs by Nobbe as retaliation.

            In its court complaint, the EEOC alleged that Nobbe’s employees “were subjected to a hostile work environment based on religion by Dynamic’s unwelcome imposition upon them of Scientology religious views and practices”.

            Such practices violate Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, including forcing employees to conform to a particular  religion. 

            According to the terms of the settlement agreement, which was approved on December 18, 2013, by U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams through an order called a Consent Decree, DMS agreed to pay $170,000.00 to settle the lawsuit.  Payments were to be made to eight affected employees and former employees in amounts ranging from $500.00 to $54,400.00. DMS did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement.

            The settlement agreement also requires DMS to accommodate  employees who complain about attending and/or participating in religious  courses or other religious work-related activities for religious reasons; to  notify the EEOC if any employees request a religious accommodation; to adopt an  anti-discrimination policy that explains to employees their rights under Title  VII with respect to religious discrimination; and to conduct training for DMS  employees covering Title VII, and specifically focusing on religious  discrimination.   

            "The law is clear: An  employer cannot force his or her religion on staff by mandating that employees  practice or espouse a certain religion, and cannot refuse to accommodate employees  after they object to such discriminatory employment practices,” said Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC's  Miami District.

            When the lawsuit was filed last year, DMS denied the EEOC’s allegations, stating that “Dynamic Medical Services prides itself on the diversity of its staff and denies that it engaged in any improper or unlawful actions with regards to its employees.”

            In the settlement agreement DMS asserted that “it neither terminated nor caused the termination of any employee for religious or any other prohibited reasons”; denied that any religious practice, procedure, or requirement was present in its workplaces; and also denied that it engaged in any other wrong-doing asserted in the EEOC’s complaint.

             Scientology is a religion developed by the late L. Ron Hubbard, its founder, who died in 1986. His religious writings include “The Way To Happiness,” “Dianetics,” and “Original Thesis.”

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