An Oak Ridge National Laboratory employee recently filed a lawsuit against the company over claims his religious freedoms are being violated.
An employee for Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) recently filed a lawsuit against the company over allegations that his supervisors “forced him to remove a cross, the symbol of his Christian faith, from his bullet-proof vest and insisted he keep it hidden.” The civil rights lawsuit was filed by attorney Garry Ferraris in U.S. District Court against the University of Tennessee at Battelle, the security contractor over at ORNL. The suit was filed on behalf of Randall Jason McCarter, a security guard for the company.
According to the lawsuit, McCarter alleges UT-Battelle violated his religious freedoms when it refused to “allow him to display a cross, something he says he was permitted to do until the contractor took over the security contract at ORNL in late 2018.” However, so far UT-Battelle denies the allegations and issued the following statement:
“UT-Battelle denies the allegations, doesn’t discriminate based on religious belief or practice, and makes reasonable accommodations whenever warranted.”
The suit states McCarter has spent years working under many different contractors with the U.S. Department of Energy, and first joined the industry back in 2008. When commenting on the suit, Ferraris said:
“Mr. McCarter is a Christian who holds the sincere religious belief and practice to visibly display the cross, a symbol of his Christianity.”
The suit alleges McCarter had been allowed to wear a “patch with a Christian cross on his tactical vest since 2016 without complaint or objection.” However, in June 2019, Capt. Gary Johnson told McCarter “he would be required to remove his patch with the Christian cross.” He was never told why. McCarter pushed back and asserted “his right to wear the Christian cross” and argued he was being discriminated against. The suit further stated:
“Other employees of defendant have been allowed to display symbols of other religions and non-religious symbols.”
“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 representation from a labor union, “but UT-Battelle refused both requests,” according to the suit. Later, the company offered “to allow him to wear a necklace with a cross, but insisted the cross must be hidden under his clothing.” McCarter, however, continued to claim he had the right to display the cross. The suit continued:
“The defendant could have accommodated Mr. McCarter’s sincerely held religious beliefs and practice without undue hardship.”
Eventually, McCarter ended up filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). From there, he was granted the right to sue and is now asking the courts to “bar UT-Battelle from future acts of discrimination and order the contractor to remove from his personnel file any disciplinary action.” Additionally, he is seeking unspecified damages.