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New York company slapped with lawsuit after forcing employees to tell one another ‘I love you’

By Mason White 2:09 PM June 13, 2014
Onionhead poster 

By: Anika Rao
(Scroll down for video) A company forced its employees to participate in religious rituals, and fired those who refused to tell managers and colleagues “I love you,” according to court documents filed in New York.

A federal agency sued the customer service provider on Wednesday, after the company forced employees to pray, thanking God for their work, and say “I love you” to managers and coworkers.

The company violated federal law when it forced employees to take part in religious activities in the workplace and fired employees who opposed such activities, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said.

Such practices violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on religion.

According to the EEOC’s suit, United Health Programs of America, Inc., and its parent company, Cost Containment Group, Inc., which provide customer service on behalf of various insurance providers, coerced employees to participate in ongoing religious activities since 2007.

These activities included group prayers, candle burning, and discussions of spiritual texts. The religious practices are part of a belief system that the defendants’ family member created, called “Onionhead.” Employees were told wear Onionhead buttons, place Onionhead cards near their work stations and keep only dim lighting in the workplace.

None of these practices were work-related. When employees opposed taking part in these religious activities or did not participate fully, they were terminated.

“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 forcing employees to take part in them,” said EEOC senior trial attorney Sunu P. Chandy.

Robert D. Rose, regional attorney of EEOC’s New York District Office, added: “Individuals are free to practice religion or not in line with their own personal beliefs. Employers are not permitted to dictate this area of workers’ lives. Workplace pressure to conform to the employers’ spiritual or religious practices violates federal employment law.”