Aviation Concepts Fired Jehovah’s Witness for Refusing to Raise Flags, Federal Agency Charges
HAGATNA, Guam—Aviation Concepts, Inc., an aircraft retailer and service provider, violated federal law when it terminated a Jehovah’s Witness after he refused to raise the flags of the United States and Guam, an activity that is against his religious beliefs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC, an assistant mechanic at the company had made known his religious beliefs and the restrictions associated with being a Jehovah’s Witness. During the first year and a half of his employment, the company respected his religious beliefs and he was not required to perform duties which conflicted with those beliefs. However, the EEOC contends that this changed in June 2010 when a different manager ordered the mechanic to raise the U.S. and Guam flags at the worksite. The mechanic again explained he could not raise the flags because doing so would violate his religious beliefs. The manager reacted by ordering the mechanic to go home. Aviation then fired the mechanic that same day for insubordination.
After attempts to reach a pre-litigation settlement failed, the EEOC filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, District of Guam (EEOC v. Aviation Concepts, Inc., Case No. 11-00028), alleging that Aviation discriminated on the basis of religion by imposing a job requirement which conflicted with the mechanic’s sincerely held religious beliefs and then terminating him for his inability to perform that requirement. This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The EEOC’s suit seeks backpay and compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the mechanic, along with injunctive relief intended to prevent future instances of discrimination at Aviation Concepts.
“EEOC will fight to secure equal justice at work, regardless of whether one’s religious beliefs and practices are less familiar,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office.
“A supervisor who engages in discriminatory practices can be a huge liability for any employer,” said Timothy Riera, local director for the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, which has jurisdiction over Guam. “Strong anti-discrimination policies and training are the key to ensuring that that workers’ civil rights are protected.”
According to the company’s website, Aviation Concepts provides private jet charter, aircraft sales and acquisition, business aviation consulting and aircraft management services from its 50,000 square foot hangar facility in Guam.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.