Sunday, July 29, 2007
Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirms $1.00 religious discrimination verdict against Omaha area home builder that required employees to attend motivational sessions to promote the owner's beliefs in reincarnation and other Buddhist and Hindu doctrines. Real estate developer fired salesman who was a devout member of the Assemblies of God Church for “poor leadership and lack of judgment,” although the salesman did admit to making inappropriate sexual comments to a female co-worker. Ollis’s official termination did not include any reference to sexual harassment. A principal of the developer also testified he used “muscle testing” in his decision to terminate the plaintiff. The Plaintiff objected to having to attend company events that he perceived to be cult-like indoctrination sessions, including beliefs in incarnation and other Buddhist and Hindu doctrines. The Plaintiff sued for discrimination and retaliation. The jury awarded only $1.00 of damages plus attorney fees. Eighth Circuit affirms.062852P.pdf 07/27/2007 Doyle Ollis, Jr. v. Hearthstone Homes U.S. Court of Appeals Case No: 06-2852 District of Nebraska Riley, Circuit Judge. "the record indicates Ollis held sincere Christian religious beliefs. The record also provides some support for Ollis’s contention HearthStone required Ollis to attend MBE sessions to “cleanse negative energy.” These sessions involved affirming the belief in past lives, participating in ritual-like activities, and reading Hindu and Buddhist literature. Ollis testified the MBE sessions conflicted with his religious beliefs. Ollis testified he informed Smith and Langford of the conflict between the MBE requirements and his religious beliefs. Ollis testified he expressed his disagreement with HearthStone’s core values at company meetings where Smith was present. Ollis told Smith he declined to participate in after-hours sessions designed to “clear some Mind Body Energy work.” Finally, Ollis satisfied the third element of his prima facie case, that is, he suffered an adverse employment action, termination.Although the evidence is thin, we find there was a sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find in Ollis’s favor on his claim of religious discrimination.