May 25, 2010

The Ghost Whisperer Goes to Work

Posted in Discrimination, Religion tagged , , , , , at 12:48 pm by Tom Jacobson

I’m not making this stuff up.

Zachary Winspear worked for Community Development, Inc.  After his brother died, a co-worker, Sierra (who happened to be one of the owner’s wives), told him that she could communicate with the dead.  She also told him that his brother was in hell and that if he did not “find God,” he, too, would go to hell.  Similar comments continued for three weeks.  After Winspear complained twice to the owner, the owner told him that Sierra really could talk to the dead and that he should follow her instructions. Winspear eventually quit “to escape the religious and other harassment by Sierra.”

Winspear later sued CDI in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.  That court threw out Winspear’s claims, so Winspear appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Eighth Circuit reversed the District Court’s decision and ordered the District Court to reconsider whether there was enough evidence of a religiously-hostile work envrionment for the case to go to trial.

Despite its bizarre facts, the case highlights the challenge an employer can face when it must balance the sometimes competing religious beliefs (and non-beliefs) that may surface in the workplace.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only.  They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship.  For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.


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