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PRESS RELEASE
6-12-12

EEOC Sues Voss Lighting for Religious Discrimination

Qualified  Applicant Denied Job Because His Religious Beliefs Differed From  the Company’s, Federal Agency Charges

TULSA, Okla. – A Lincoln, Nebraska-based supplier of  lighting products violated federal law by refusing to hire a qualified  applicant at its Tulsa facility because of his religious beliefs, the U.S.  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed  today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Voss Electric Company, doing  business as Voss Lighting, advertised a vacancy for an “operations supervisor”  position through the website of the First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, the  church attended by the incumbent manager.  Although he did not himself attend the church,  Edward Wolfe, who had prior management experience, learned about the vacancy  and applied for the position.  The Voss manager  met with Wolfe and recommended him to the branch manager for an interview.  Throughout the application process, both managers  made numerous inquiries, both subtle and overt, into Wolfe’s religious  activities and beliefs.  They asked Wolfe  to identify every church he has attended over the past several years; where and  when he was “saved” and the circumstances that led up to it; and whether he  “would have a problem” coming into work early to attend Bible study before  clocking in. 

At Wolfe’s second job interview, the EEOC said, Voss’s branch  manager became upset over Wolfe’s truthful responses to the religious  questioning.  Despite being considered  qualified for the position, which involved no religious duties or  responsibilities, Wolfe was denied employment on the basis of his religious  beliefs.

Such alleged conduct violates the Civil Rights Act of  1964.  The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S.  District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma (EEOC v. Voss Electric Company d/b/a Voss Lighting, Civil Case No.: 12-CV-330-JHP-FHM)  after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process.  The EEOC’s suit seeksback pay, compensa­tory and punitive  damages and reinstatement or front pay for Wolfe as well as injunctive relief,  including a court order prohibiting Voss Lighting from any further  discrimination against applicants on the basis of their religious beliefs or  non-beliefs.

 “Voss Lighting  appears to have a corporate culture that requires employees adhere to certain  religious beliefs that have absolutely no bearing on the business of selling lighting  products,” said EEOC trial attorney Patrick Holman.  “This litigation, we hope, will serve to illuminate  Voss Lighting as to Title VII’s prohibitions against discrimination on the  basis of religion.”

Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St.  Louis District Office, added, “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has  long prohibited a private employer from discriminating against applicants or  employees based on their religious beliefs or practices -- or lack thereof.  The level of intolerance demonstrated by Voss  Lighting is inconsistent with the values of the free and diverse society  embodied in these laws.”

According to company information, Voss Electric Company,  doing business as Voss Lighting, is one of the nation’s leading suppliers of  specialized replacement lighting products, with offices in 16 cities across the  United States.

 The EEOC is  responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination.  Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.