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Employee Fired For Religious Proselytizing

December 1, 2006
Related Topics: Wrongful Discharge, Discrimination and EEOC Compliance, Featured Article
When hired by Jacobs Engineering Group, Edna Ng received the company’s anti-harassment policy. As an evangelical Christian, Ng felt that her religion compelled her to share her beliefs to save her co-workers. After she began working, Ng invited co-workers to a Christmas party in one of the company’s conference rooms. Using an amplifier, Ng’s pastor sang carols with the participants at the event. Because of the noise, several employees complained.

She later held a Christian-based Easter party in a company conference room. She obtained no permission from the company to conduct these events. Following the Easter event, Ng was counseled by her manager not to distribute religious literature. Ng’s manager later told her not to use company resources or time for non-work purposes, or to present or distribute religious materials. The HR manager reiterated the company’s policy to her. Ng’s request to hold a prayer meeting on the "National Day of Prayer" was also denied.

Ng was terminated after she sent multiple e-mails to co-workers on several different occasions in which she quoted the Bible, and had continued to use company facilities for religious purposes despite the earlier counseling that she not do so.

Ng sued in Los Angeles County Superior Court, but the court rejected her claim that she was entitled to accommodation for her religious beliefs and practices and dismissed her claim.

On appeal, a California appeals court agreed with the dismissal of Ng’s claims and reasoned: "If we were to require [the company] to accommodate proselytizing in the workplace ... it would violate its own policy and be subject to claims by other employees desiring to use company facilities to share their own religious beliefs." Edna Ng v. Jacobs Engineering Group, Cal. Ct. App., No. B185838 (10/16/06).

Impact: Particularly with anti-harassment policies, employers are free to prohibit employees from using the workplace to proselytize co-workers.

Workforce Management, November 20, 2006, p. 11 -- Subscribe Now!

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