Company Settles Oklahoma Man’s Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

March 21, 2013

A Nebraska-based company accused of refusing to hire an Oklahoma man because of his religious beliefs has settled a discrimination lawsuit in the case.

Voss Lighting agreed to pay $82,500 to former job candidate Edward Wolfe, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. Voss also will institute companywide actions to prevent further religious discrimination, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued the Lincoln company over the allegations last year in federal court in Oklahoma.

The EEOC accused Voss of violating federal law by refusing to hire Edward Wolfe at its Tulsa, Okla., location.

According to the lawsuit, Voss advertised the job in Tulsa through a Baptist church that one of the managers in the Tulsa office attended. Wolfe, who did not attend the church, learned about the job and applied for the position.

The lawsuit says Wolfe was subjected to numerous questions about his religious beliefs and practices during the interview. He allegedly was asked to identify churches he had attended, where and when he was “saved” and whether he would have a problem coming to work early to attend Bible study, according to the lawsuit.

In a second interview, the Tulsa branch manager for Voss became upset over Wolfe’s responses to the religious questions, according to the lawsuit.

The EEOC said Voss had no other qualified candidates at the time Wolfe was interviewed. Wolfe was not hired despite being considered qualified for the position, a decision the EEOC says was based on his religious beliefs.

Voss continued to seek applicants for the position and eventually hired an individual whose religious ideology matched that of the company and its leadership, the EEOC said.

“The evidence in this case suggested widespread religious discrimination throughout the company, not just its Oklahoma locations,” Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, told the Journal Star. “The EEOC is optimistic that the corporate-wide remedial actions agreed to by Voss Lighting will put an end to the role religion plays in its decisions affecting applicants and employees. If not, we will be back in court again.”

The company denied the accusations in the lawsuit and has maintained that the person eventually hired was more qualified than Wolfe.

Voss did not acknowledge any wrongdoing in the settlement, saying it opted to settle to avoid a long, expensive legal fight.

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