HR Strange But True!
March 22, 2007

Two former University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) employees who were fired for praying at the cubicle of an absent co-worker have filed suit claiming the school discriminated against them because of their religion, sex, and age.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Evelyne Shatkin and Linda Shifflett, both women over the age of 40. They contend that a third co-worker, Doug Maples (a male under the age of 40), approached Shatkin to discuss "concerns and difficulties" with another employee. Shatkin and Maples agreed to pray together regarding Maples' situation with that employee.

Maples told Shifflett that he and Shatkin would be staying after work on a Friday -- a day they knew the co-worker would be away on vacation -- to pray at the absent co-worker's cubicle, according to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth.

During the session, Shatkin prayed for Maples' situation "in accordance with specific passages from the Bible," the suit states. "During the prayer, Mr. Maples indicated his agreement with Plaintiff Shatkin's prayer by saying 'Amen' and 'Yes, Lord.' Plaintiff Shifflett only said 'Amen.'"

Shatkin also anointed the door frame of the cubicle with olive oil.

Five days later, the university informed Shatkin and Shifflett that it was going to terminate them for harassing a co-worker and for damaging school property.

The plaintiffs contend that the reasons for dismissal were a pretext because the absent co-worker was unaware of the alleged harassing actions, the cubicle was not marked or damaged by the oil, and Maples, who initiated and participated in the session, was not fired or otherwise disciplined.

The court currently is considering UTA's contention that it should be immune from the lawsuit under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

Source: Shatkin et al. v. University of Texas at Arlington et al., U.S.D.C. N.D. Texas, No. 4-06CV-882-Y (12/19/06)

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