U.S. sues N.Y. company that workers say
made them pray, say 'I love you'
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[June 12, 2014]
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal
agency sued a New York customer service provider on Wednesday after
allegations the company forced employees to pray, thank God for their
jobs and say "I love you" to managers and colleagues at work, and fired
those who protested.
The Long Island-based United Health Programs of America and its
parent company, Cost Containment Group, required workers to practice
a spiritual belief system called Onionhead while on the job, in
violation of their civil and religious rights, the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission said in the complaint.
The company fired several employees who refused to adhere to the
Onionhead doctrine, which was created by the aunt of the company's
owner, the complaint said.
In one case, an IT project and account manager was disciplined after
she complained to management in 2010 that she was Catholic and did
not want to participate in the spiritual activities, according to
A month after she complained, the employee was removed from her
office and relocated to an open customer service area, while a large
statue of a Buddha was placed in her former office. She protested to
the owner that the move amounted to a demotion and was fired, the
"While religious or spiritual practices may indeed provide comfort
and community to many people, it is critical to be aware that
federal law prohibits employers from coercing employees to take part
in them," Sunu Chandy, senior trial attorney at the commission, said
in a statement.
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The commission is seeking back pay with interest and unspecified
damages for the fired employees, and an injunction against the
company from further religious requirements.
Representatives for United Health Programs of America and Cost
Containment Group could not be immediately reached for comment.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Edith Honan and Peter
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