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Construction Worker Sues Company, Says He Was Fired For Not Attending Bible Study

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The plaintiff's case:



According to the complaint, he was hired as a painter in October 2017 and discovered on the job that he was required to attend Christian Bible study as part of his employment.


Coleman, who is half-Native American (Cherokee and Blackfoot), wasn't comfortable with those terms, his attorney, Corinne Schram, told NPR. "He says his church is a sweat lodge, his bible is a drum, and that's his form of worship to the creator," Schram said.


According to the document, Coleman expressed his discomfort with attending the Bible study meetings and said the requirement was illegal, but business owner Joel Dahl insisted that he go anyway.


And Coleman, who has a felony conviction in his past, attended the sessions for a few months, "believing he had no other choice," the lawsuit states.


Schram said her client asked himself, "Do I do something that I really am uncomfortable with and goes against my own beliefs and keep my job, or do I refuse to go and risk losing my job?"


After several months, Coleman finally refused to go to the religious sessions and was fired from the job, according to the filing. He is suing for $50,000 of alleged loss of income and $750,000 from "mental stress, humiliation, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment of life."


The defendant's case and why the felony is relevant:



Kent Hickam, the attorney representing Dahl, told NPR that the suit was without merit. "We believe that this requirement was not illegal," Hickam said. "These are at-will employees and they were paid to go. It was part of their job, so they were expected to attend."


Hickam said Coleman was not fired — that he was an on-call employee and that he found other work 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 meant to help employees, many of whom were felons and people recovering from addiction, Hickam said.


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