In a bizarre twist on religious rights in the workplace, a New York insurance firm allegedly forced its employees to following the teachings of a fictional onion and tell their bosses, "I love you."
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing United Health Programs of America, Inc. for allegedly compelling its employees to be "Onionheads," a movement started by a relative of the company's founder.
In what sounds like a cult atmosphere, workers reportedly had to wear Onionhead buttons, display Onionhead cards, burn candles, pray and tell managers and colleagues, "I love you." Workers who didn't were fired, the EEOC charges.
The so-called religion is part of a nonprofit group that vows (in all Comic Sans, no less) to use emotional awareness to rid the world of its problems. As for Onionhead, his motto is apparently "peel it, feel it, heel it" and the fictional onion "wants everyone to know how they feel and then know what to do with those feelings."
The EEOC knows how it feels: Employers can't force religious practices on workers.
Normally religious discrimination cases involve a worker's rights to, say, wear a head scarf or not work on the Sabbath. But sometimes cases flip around:
Screaming At Ashtrays
A Miami company paid $170,000 to settle a case of employees forced to practice Scientology. In what can't have been a good move for the firm's finances, workers at Dynamic Medical Services, Inc. had to spend half of their days in Scientology coursework.
That coursework involved "screaming at ashtrays or starting at someone for eight hours without moving."
One employee was even "audited," a Scientology practice of hooking up people to an "e-meter" and asking them probing personal questions.
Pray Away The Gay
A lesbian in New York was victorious after suing her boss for holding prayer meetings targeted at saving the woman's soul.
Chef Mirella Salemi was awarded $1.6 million for Edward Globokar's reportedly regular practice of forcing employee prayer meetings. Many of the prayers were said to point out Salemi's sexual orientation and ask for her salvation.
The world's best boss also told other employees they'd go to hell if they didn't share his religious beliefs.
Prayers for Paychecks
Oak Tree Inn in Yuma, Ariz. had to pony up $75,000 after a manager there threatened to cut workers' hours if they didn't participate in prayers. Even employees who were religious weren't good enough -- the inn manager said they had to participate in very specific prayer ceremonies and mocked employees for alternative religious beliefs.