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Companies can’t force religion

After a three-week trial, in late April a federal court jury in New York awarded 10 current or former employees of a Long Island healthcare company $5.1 million in damages for creating a hostile work environment.

The jury ruled unanimously that United Health Programs of America had violated federal law by coercing the employees to engage in religious practices at work. The claims related to a belief system called “Harnessing Happiness,” created by the aunt of the company’s CEO, who was employed as a consultant.

In a statement issued after the trial, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from forcing employees to engage in religious practices at work. 

“This case featured a unique type of religious discrimination, in that the employer was pushing his religion on employees,” said EEOC trial attorney Charles Coleman, Jr. “Nonetheless, Title VII prohibits . . . discrimination of this sort.” 

Established in 1993, United Health Programs provides a variety of services related to health benefit plans.

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