A man in Oregon says he was fired from a construction job because he did not want to attend weekly Bible lessons ,
Ryan Coleman, 34, filed a $ 800,000 lawsuit last week against Dahled Up Construction, a company based in Albany, one hour south of Portland.
According to the complaint, he was hired as a painter in October 201
Coleman, who is half Native American (Cherokee and Blackfoot), was unfamiliar with these conditions; his lawyer, Corinne Schram, told NPR. "He says his church is a sweat lodge, his Bible is a drum and that is his form of worship for the Creator."
According to the document, Coleman expressed his unease about participating in the Bible texts and said the request was illegal, but business owner Joel Dahl insisted that he would go anyway.
And Coleman, who has been convicted of crimes in his past, attended the sessions for several months "because he believed he had no choice," the lawsuit says. Schram said her client wondered : "Do I do something that really makes me feel unwell and violates my own beliefs and retains my job, or refuse to leave and risk losing my job?"
After several months, Coleman finally refused to attend religious meetings and was dismissed from work, according to the filing. He is suing $ 50,000 for alleged loss of income and $ 750,000 for "mental stress, humiliation, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment of life."
His lawyer said that this case was clear. "A non-religious employer can not obligate employees to attend Bible study, whether they are paid for their time or not, they can do it voluntarily, but they can not make it a condition for employment."
Kent Hickam, The lawyer representing Dahl told NPR that the lawsuit was without merit. "We believe that this requirement was not illegal – these are volunteers and they were paid to leave – it was part of their job, so they were expected."
Hickam said that Coleman was not fired – that he was a readiness worker and that he found other jobs while he was still on call for Dahled Up.
The Bible study took place once a week for about an hour in the afternoon. The meetings were designed to help employees, many of whom were serious criminals and people recovering from the addiction, Hickam said.
"It was arranged by a pastor to give them a reasonable motivation to hold the course, to sustain their recovery," Hickam said.
Coleman served a prison term for child neglect and for the sale of methamphetamine, Schram said. But she told NPR that her client had turned his life around and recently got full custody of his two sons aged 10 and 14 years.
Dahl, the owner of the construction company, told the Oregonian about his own story about drugs and alcohol. He is a second-chance employer, hiring felons and harassing addicts.
Hickam said of Dahl that the lawsuit "did not shake his faith in God."
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