Civil Rights & Constitutional Law
Village of Woodmere and Mayor Yolanda Broadie settle First Amendment retaliation case with Chief...
April 21, 2009
Monday, October 22, 2018
DAYTON, OHIO — Today, Raymond Whitsel filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Cincinnati office alleging religious discrimination by Miami Valley North Hospital, which is owned by Premier Health.
Mr. Whitsel, a Norse Pagan Heathen, alleges that he was terminated from his position as a hospital security officer at Miami Valley Hospital North after he declined to shave his beard to comply with a new grooming policy. Mr. Whitsel had worked in his position for 12 years when the hospital imposed a new rule requiring security employees to be clean shaven.
Wearing a beard is a central tenet of Mr. Whitsel’s faith in keeping with the Old Norse ways. This reality has been recognized by other employers, including the federal government. Recently, the United States Army granted a religious accommodation for a Heathen soldier to wear his beard and serve in uniform in the 795th Military Police Battalion. The Hammer of Thor, a symbol of Norse paganism comparable to a crucifix for Christians or the Star of David for Jews, is permitted on headstones in military cemeteries.
Mr. Whitsel provided information to his employer on his religious practice including the Army’s accommodation of a military police officer’s beard, but the hospital refused to relent, imposing discipline and then termination.
Federal and state law require employers to accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs unless doing so would pose an undue hardship. Miami Valley North Hospital has not alleged that allowing Mr. Whitsel to keep his job and his beard would create any hardship whatsoever.
Mr. Whitsel’s counsel, Subodh Chandra, said, “America was founded on the principle of religious freedom. Federal and state law guarantee Mr. Whitsel the right to practice his faith without interference by his employer. An employee should not have to choose between his faith and his livelihood.”
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