A man from Oregon, U.S., Ryan Coleman has dragged his employer to court after he was sacked from work for refusing to attend weekly Christian Bible studies.
Reports say the 34-year-old Coleman is filed seeking more than $750,000 in the lawsuit filed in Linn County Circuit Court.
Coleman, a convicted felon and half-Native American, said the construction company, Dahled Up Construction, did not require its workers to attend weekly Bible studies until a month after he was hired as a painter, the Oregonian reports.
Joel Dahl, the company’s owner and founder, insisted his employees attend the studies as a condition of continuing employment, the lawsuit claims.
Coleman said he complied for nearly six months, fearing his past convictions would make finding other work difficult.
“I am Native American and Christianity is just not my thing,” Coleman told Fox News.
But in April, Coleman told Dahl he could not attend the classes anymore and was fired. Coleman said he had received a pay raise only two weeks prior.
“I loved my job. I woke up every day excited to go to work. Not everybody can say that,” Coleman said.
Dahl, also a convicted felon, said he started his construction company to help other felons like Coleman get back on their feet, the Oregonian reported.
Dahl’s attorney does not dispute that Dahl requires employees to attend Bible study, but says it is legal because Dahl pays them to attend.
“We believe that this requirement was not illegal. These are at-will employees and they were paid to go. It was part of their job, so they were expected to attend,” Kent Hickman, an attorney for Dahl, told NPR.
But Coleman’s attorney, Corinne Schram, questioned the legality of the work requirement.
“Unless you are a religious organisation like a church, you cannot force your employees to participate in religious activities,” Schram said.
Coleman is suing his former employer for $50,000 of alleged lost income and $750,000 for “mental stress, humiliation, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment of life,” the lawsuit says.
Albany is located in northwestern Oregon, about 70 miles south of Portland.