EEOC Sues Long Island Employer For Making Its Employees Say “I Love You”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) sued United Health Programs of America, Inc., and its parent company, for coercing its employees to take part in a religious practice and belief system known as “Harnessing Happiness” or “Onionhead.”

The lawsuit alleges that the employer, among other things, required its employees to pray, read spiritual texts, burn candles, keep dim lighting in the workplace, thank God for their employment, and say “I love you” to management and colleagues.  Those who refused to participate were allegedly terminated or forced into involuntary resignation.  One employee who resisted the practice was allegedly moved out of her office and a Buddha statue was placed there in her stead.

The EEOC’s lawsuit, which is in its earliest stages, seeks a permanent injunction enjoining the employer from engaging in the alleged religious-based discrimination.  While this suit depicts an extreme situation, employers should be mindful about the consequences of imposing or encouraging employees to participate in any religious-based practices.

~Submitted by M Monroy and L Rieders

Categories: Employment Law