A former marketing director for a wireless telecommunications company has filed suit against his former employer for religious discrimination. Mindrup v. Goodman Networks, Inc., No. 4:14-cv-00157, complaint (E.D. Tex., Mar. 20, 2014). He alleges that, after working for the company for years, he was terminated one day after he refused to comply with instructions from a superior that, he claims, violated his sincerely-held religious beliefs. Because the plaintiff alleges that the violations were intentional, he is seeking punitive damages along with lost wages and other damages.
The plaintiff worked for the defendant as Director of Marketing Communications. Part of his job was to send out a daily email message to employees entitled “The Morning Coffee,” which he states that he did for about six years. He alleges that one of the company’s co-founders, who was also a corporate director and officer, instructed him on March 14, 2012 to begin adding Bible quotes to “The Morning Coffee” the following day. The plaintiff, who is a practicing Buddhist, claims that he believed this would not only go against his own religious beliefs, but might offend other employees.
The following day, the plaintiff claims that he emailed the co-founder to decline the instruction, adding that he had “always taken great care to avoid any quotes that would offend others” or his own beliefs. Id. at 4. The co-founder allegedly responded with an email saying “I respect your beliefs.” Id. The plaintiff then claims that the co-founder fired him “in an after-hours telephone call” the next day, March 16, “without any warning or progressive discipline,” because of his refusal to put Bible verses in the daily email message. Id.
The plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a required step prior to filing an employment discrimination lawsuit. During the EEOC’s investigation, the defendant claimed that the plaintiff’s firing was part of a “pre-planned and well-thought out reduction in force.” Id. The plaintiff calls this claim a “pretext” intended to mask the employer’s unlawful discrimination. The EEOC issued a “right to sue” letter, and the plaintiff filed suit in March 2014.
The plaintiff’s complaint asserts two causes of action for unlawful employment practices. First, he alleges that the defendant discriminated against him on the basis of religion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on several factors, including religion. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant terminated his employment because of his refusal to add Bible quotes to “The Morning Coffee,” and that it refused to make reasonable accommodations for his religious beliefs by “requiring him to prosthelytize the Christian religion.” Mindrup, complaint at 5. He also claims that the defendant unlawfully retaliated against him, by terminating him, for opposing an allegedly unlawful employment practice. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a).
The plaintiff is seeking back and front pay, lost wages, lost benefits, and other actual damages; as well as non-pecuniary damages like “emotional pain” and “loss of enjoyment of life.” Mindrup, complaint at 7. Because the employment discrimination was, he alleges, intentional, he is also seeking punitive damages under Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981a, 2000e-5.
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