Employees Subjected to Religious Discrimination and Retaliation

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Flower Mound Medical Practice to Pay $375,000 After Judgment in EEOC Title VII Lawsuit

Employees Subjected to Religious Discrimination and Retaliation

DALLAS – Tim Shepherd M.D., P.A. and Bridges Healthcare, P.A., doing business as Shepherd Healthcare, a medical practice in Flower Mound, Texas, will pay $375,000 and furnish other relief after a federal court entered judgment against both defendants, the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Tim Shepherd M.D., P.A. and Bridges Healthcare, P.A., Civil Action No.4:20-cv-60-SDJ), Shepherd Healthcare conducted mandatory meetings each morning that involved prayer and a reading of Biblical verses, including discussion of how those principles applied to the employees’ personal lives. An employee in the call center, who followed the principles of Buddhism, asked several times to be excused from attending the religious portion of the mandatory daily staff meeting as a religious accommodation. Her requests for accommodation were denied, and she was fired just one day after she had renewed her request to be excused from the Bible meetings.

The EEOC’s suit also charged that Shepherd Healthcare subjected employees to a religiously based hostile work environment by imposing religious practices and beliefs on them. The EEOC further alleged that some employees were fired because they expressed their objections or opposition to the required religious practices.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settleĀ­ment through its conciliation process.

The final judgment, entered by U.S. District Court Judge Sean D. Jordan on Mar. 11, 2021, orders the defendants to provide monetary relief to 10 former employees, as well as to conduct training on Title VII for all employees and managers. The judgment also prohibits the defendants from requiring or pressuring any employee to engage in religious-based activities, including meetings, social events, conversations, and prayers.

“Title VII protects employees from being required to accept their employer’s religious practices and beliefs as a condition of their employment,” said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Meaghan Kuelbs. “These former employees were asked to begin every day with a discussion of Biblical principles and how those principles applied to their work and personal lives. This is not an activity that any employer can mandate.”

The defendant Tim Shepherd M.D., P. A. filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy soon after the EEOC filed its first amended complaint in this case. The EEOC learned that Bridges Healthcare P.A. had been created by Dr. Shepherd as a new practice shortly before the bankruptcy filing. The EEOC continued its prosecution of the action because the agency’s statutory authority to enforce Title VII is not subject to the automatic stay provision of the bankruptcy code, and named Bridges Healthcare, P.A. as a second defendant under a theory of successor liability.

“The EEOC stands by those former employees of Shepherd Healthcare who spoke up when they were forced to attend a Bible class and were then harassed and fired after they refused to comply,” said Suzanne Michel Anderson, acting regional attorney of the EEOC’s Dallas District Office.

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