GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — A Greensboro company that was sued over firing employees that did not participate in group prayers will have to pay thousands of dollars in a settlement.
Aurora Renovations and Developments, LLC, or Aurora Pro Services, a Greensboro-based home repair company has agreed to pay $50,000 and provide other relief in order to settle a religious harassment, discrimination and retaliation lawsuit that was filed by the EEOC in June 2022, the agency announced on their website on Aug. 2.
The agency says that since at least June 2020, Auroro Pro Services required employees to attend daily employer-led Christian prayer meetings. These meetings, conducted by the company owner, included Bible readings, Christian devotionals and soliciting prayer requests from other employees.
The owner allegedly took roll before some meetings, reprimanding employees who didn’t attend. The meetings could last upwards of 45 minutes.
“Sometimes specific employees who made mistakes at work were called out in the prayers,” the complaint read.
A construction manager, identified in the lawsuit as an atheist, asked to be excused from prayers in the fall of 2020. The owner declined this request, saying that “all employees were required to participate in the prayer meetings, and that it would be in his “best interest” to do so,” according to the lawsuit. He asked again and the request was denied and he was told that he still had to attend even if he “didn’t like it,” but when he refused to participate he was fired.
A customer services representative was also fired in January 2021 after she stopped attending meetings, due to conflict with her personal beliefs as an agnostic. She described the behavior as “ranting” and began to feel as though the meetings became “cult-like” after the owner required everyone to recite the Catholic version of the Lord’s Prayer in unison.
Firing people based on their religious beliefs violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The settlement awarded damages to the impacted employees, the company must implement a new anti-discrimination, non-retaliation and religious accommodation policy, proving training to managers, employees and the owner of the company.
“Federal law protects employees from having to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs and their jobs,” said Melinda C. Dugas, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “Employers who sponsor prayer meetings in the workplace have a legal obligation to accommodate employees whose personal religious beliefs conflict with the company’s practice.”