Applicant Sues Lighting Company for Requiring Employees to Be Christian
Voss Lighting, a national supplier of lighting products, is fighting a lawsuit over claims that it did not hire an applicant because of his religious beliefs.
The company – which has a biblical mission to sell products in order to "tell everyone we can about God's soul-saving, life-transforming gospel message" – has been accused of denying a position to Edward Wolfe because he did not adhere to certain religious beliefs.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of the applicant.
"Voss Lighting appears to have a corporate culture that requires employees adhere to certain religious beliefs that have absolutely no bearing on the business of selling lighting products," said EEOC trial attorney Patrick Holman in a statement. "This litigation, we hope, will serve to illuminate Voss Lighting as to Title VII's prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of religion."
Steve Sanderson, vice president and general manager for Voss Lighting, denied to the Tulsa World on Wednesday that the company did not hire Wolfe as a consequence of his religious beliefs.
"The individual hired by Voss had more lighting product experience and was more qualified than the charging party. Voss looks forward to a judicial determination of the rights of the parties," he added to the Tulsa World.
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According to EEOC, Wolfe applied for an "operations supervisor" position at Voss after learning about it through the website of First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow. Wolfe does not attend that church.
During an interview with two managers at Voss, Wolfe was allegedly asked to identify all the churches he attended and describe the time he received Christ. The managers also allegedly asked him if he would have a problem coming to work early for a Bible study.
According to the Tulsa World, one of the managers also purportedly told Wolfe that most employees were Southern Baptist but that "as you were a 'born-again' Christian, it didn't matter what church you attended."
EEOC claims the branch manager became upset over Wolfe's responses during a second interview and then denied him employment.
EEOC is charging a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits a private employer from discriminating against applicants or employees based on their religious beliefs or practices or lack thereof.
Voss Lighting has offices in 16 cities across the United States. It states on its website that along with the business mission of providing premier lighting products, it is also committed to spreading the Gospel "as Jesus instructed believers to do." "We sell ... to tell" is its motto.