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4 ex-dental staff allege they suffered religious discrimination

Many Texas employees enjoy listening to music in the background as they work. This can become an issue if the music being played is found to be offensive to some of the workers. Four former employees of a dental office in another state allege that they were the victims of religious discrimination and were fired or felt pressured to quit when they objected to their boss's mandatory religious practices.

Allegedly, the defendant owned a dental practice and constantly played Christian music. The dentist stated that she does so because it is uplifting and her patients enjoy the environment it creates. One of the plaintiffs alleged that some of the patients had asked about the music and, to appease the customers, she turned on the T.V. instead and that this was frowned upon. She claims her employer told her that the music must play to discourage demons and, when she contested, in writing, being forced to conform to these religious practices, she was fired.

The plaintiffs further allege that when prayer meetings were initially started with the staff, they were not required, but later, participation was not an option. Additionally, a head of a religious group purportedly took over the structure of the dentistry and was asked to weed out the employees who did not conform to the defendant's beliefs. Two employees who reportedly did not agree with the religious views were fired and replaced with members of the religious community. One of the plaintiffs who worked at the front desk claims she quit because she could not tolerate the religious harassment.

The defendant's lawyers stated that their client denies the claims, and although she sometimes had prayed with the staff, the prayer meetings were never forced upon the employees. Additionally, the owner feels that she is being attacked because of her preference to play religious music at her own business. The plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages for the mental distress they endured as well as past and future wages and benefits. The defendants are accused of religious discrimination and violating Michigan's Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act. In similar circumstances, Texas workers cannot be forced to adopt their employers' religious beliefs or practices as a contingency for keeping their jobs and those who are aggrieved are within their legal rights to consider pursuing legal action.

Source: The Washington Post, "A dentist is being sued for harassing staff by constantly playing Christian music", Leslie Caimi, Jan. 15, 2016

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