Safety Guard Hits UT-Battelle with Lawsuit, Alleging Violations of Spiritual Freedoms

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Cross Necklace

An employee at Oak Ridge National Laboratory recently filed a lawsuit against the company over allegations that its religious freedom is being violated.

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) employee recently filed a lawsuit against the company on allegations that his superiors forced him to remove a cross, the symbol of his Christian faith, from his bulletproof vest and insisted that he be kept it hidden. “The civil rights suit was filed by Attorney Garry Ferraris in the US District Court against the University of Tennessee at Battelle, the security officer at ORNL. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Randall Jason McCarter, a company security officer.

Security guard; Image courtesy of RyanMcGuire via Pixabay, www.pixabay.com

According to the lawsuit, McCarter alleges that UT-Battelle violated its religious freedom when it refused to “allow him to show a cross, which he believed he could do until the contractor took over the security contract with ORNL in late 2018”. So far, however, UT-Battelle denies the allegations and makes the following statement:

“UT-Battelle denies the allegations, does not discriminate based on religious belief or practice, and takes reasonable precautions whenever warranted.”

The suit states that McCarter worked under a variety of contractors at the US Department of Energy for years and first entered the industry in 2008. Commenting on the suit, Ferraris said:

“Mr. McCarter is a Christian who has the sincere religious belief and practice of making the cross, a symbol of his Christianity, visible.”

The suit claims that McCarter has been “allowed to wear a patch with a Christian cross on his tactical vest” since 2016 without complaint or objection. In June 2019, however, Captain Gary Johnson told McCarter, “He would have to remove his patch of Christian cross.” He was never told why. McCarter pushed back, asserting “his right to wear the Christian cross”, arguing that he was being discriminated against. The suit further stated:

“Other employees of the defendant were allowed to display symbols of other religions and non-religious symbols.”

McCarter goes on to claim that he was “disciplined after refusing to remove the plaster and looking for religious accommodation that would allow him to continue displaying the cross”. The suit states:

“The defendant characterized (McCarter’s) protected activity as” insubordination “and disciplined him in retaliation for his protected activity.”

Over time, McCarter continued to fight for the right to wear his cross and eventually sought union representation, “but UT-Battelle denied both applications,” the lawsuit said. The company later offered to “allow him to wear a necklace with a cross, but insisted that the cross be hidden under his clothing.” However, McCarter continued to claim that he had the right to show the cross. The suit went on:

“The defendant could have lived up to Mr. McCarter’s righteous religious beliefs and practices without undue harshness.”

Finally, McCarter filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). From there he was given the right to sue, and he is now calling on the courts to “exclude UT-Battelle from future acts of discrimination and to order the contractor to remove disciplinary measures from his personnel file”. In addition, he looks for unspecified damage.

Sources:

The ORNL security officer was forced to remove his Christian cross, according to a lawsuit

McCarter v UT-Battelle LLC