Woman Fired For Eating ‘Unclean’ Meat

Orlando Local6 TV – Woman Fired For Eating ‘Unclean’ Meat

A Central Florida woman was fired from her job after eating “unclean” meat and violating a reported company policy that pork and pork products are not permissible on company premises, according to Local 6 News. Lina Morales was hired as an administrative assistant at Rising Star — a Central Florida telecommunications company with strong Muslim ties, Local 6 News reported. However, 10 months after being hired by Rising Star, religious differences led to her termination.

Morales, who is Catholic, was warned about eating pizza with meat the Muslim faith considered “unclean.,” Local 6 News reported. She was then fire for eating a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, according to the report. “Are you telling me they fired you because you had something with ham on it?” Local 6 News reporter Mike Holfeld asked. “Yes,” Morales said.

Well, actually, bacon.

Holfeld asked, “A pizza and a BLT sandwich?” ” Yes,” Morales said.

Local 6 News obtained the termination letter that states she was fired for refusing to comply with company policy that pork and pork products are not permissible on company premises.
However, by the company’s own admission to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that policy is not written, Local 6 News reported. “Did you ever sign to or agree to anything that said I will not eat pork?” Holfeld asked Morales. “Never,” Morales said. “When I got hired there, they said we don’t care what religion you are.”

Attorney Travis Hollifield is representing Morales in a lawsuit against the company. “It’s just un-American,” Hollifield said. “It’s not in compliance with the laws of this country.” Local 6 News reported that the case has precedent-setting issues because it addresses employee rights and religion in the workplace. “It’s a classic case of religious discrimination,” Hollifield said. “They have not articulated a single reason other than religious reason behind the policy.”

The CEO of Rising Star, Kujaatele Kweli, told Local 6 News that they have tried to create an office that accommodates anybody’s religion — not just Islam. “Clearly you’re accommodating,” Holfeld said. “Yes.” Kweli replied. “And you have an ecumenical philosophy,” Holfeld said. ” Yes,” Kweli replied. “(Then) shouldn’t you be able to accommodate all faiths in the same lunch room?” Holfeld asked. “We do, we can,” Kweli said. “But you’ve dismissed one of your employees for eating pork in the lunch room,” Holfeld said. “Yes, pork is considered unclean,” Kweli said. The Koran forbids Muslims from eating pork. And according to Kweli, Morales and every employee at the company is advised of the no pork policy. “Our point of view is to respect the laws of the land and the laws of the land as I understand it is to the accommodate people’s right to practice their religions if you can,” Kweli said. “Even if it impacts other people?” Holfeld asked. “Well, it always impacts other people,” Kweli replied.

Orlando attorney Mark Nejame is close to the Muslim community, Local 6 News reported. He said Kweli’s intentions may cross constitutional parameters, according to the report. “They’re making it seem that if you don’t follow a certain set of religious practices and beliefs then you’re going to be terminated and that’s wrong,” Nejame said. “If this case prevails, what it will mean — the implications of this case — is it will eliminate accommodations of religion.”

I don’t know the case law on private companies imposing restrictions on their employees on religious grounds. One would think the company well within their rights, though. Surely, a company, especially a small family-owned one, should have a right to require their employees not do things that violate fundamental tenets of their faith. And, frankly, it wouldn’t kill Morales to skip the bacon and pizza one meal a day, anyway.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Media, Popular Culture
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Can you imagine the response had a ewish owned busienss made this kind of restriction, much less tried to enforce it?

    PC is out of control.




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  2. Jay Solo says:

    I have to disagree. At least in terms of how things ARE, as opposed to how they ought to be. A company that doesn’t wish to hire any white people has the right to do so. Except that they don’t. A company that wants to apply religious tenets of the owner or majority of employees to other employees as a condition of employment has every right to do that. Except they don’t. And if they do, then all the other, equivalent freedoms of association and hiring should apply and be defended rather than curtailed.

    This ought to be an interesting case to watch.




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  3. I agree, as long as the employee is clearly told before being hired (in writing preferably).

    Many companies have rules against posting pornographic pictures, or even accessing them on the internet, and I think they are quite right to do so. These rules are based upon moral convictions that are somehwat debatable all the same.

    I think Muslim owners who don’t want pork on their own premises ought to be allowed to forbid it.

    Still it seems to me that the lady should have been warned, not fired.




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  4. KipEsquire says:

    I don’t see where the religious discrimination is. There’s a big difference between “No Catholics Need Apply” and “no pig meat on premises.” It’s what in other First Amendment contexts is called the distinction between content-neutral and content-specific restrictions.




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  5. Moe Lane says:

    “I agree, as long as the employee is clearly told before being hired (in writing preferably).”

    I would agree with that, as long as the word ‘preferably’ is struck from the sentence: if it’s worth being fired over then it should be spelled out beforehand. Non scriptus, non est.




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  6. McGehee says:

    if it’s worth being fired over then it should be spelled out beforehand.

    I would agree, but the law might not. If there’s any hook to hang her claim on, it’s the alleged lack of a written policy — but if the company can substantiate an argument that they informed her verbally, they may be able to weasel out of any liability.

    It’s not smart to try to enforce an unwritten policy, but unwritten contracts can be enforced in court, so…




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  7. dw says:

    One to note here: This was a private business, not a religious 501(c)(3) under Title VII. If it were a religious organization, they would have the full right to fire her for violating Islamic halal rules. The rules say that a religious organization can discriminate if not doing so would violate the tenets of their religion. For example, a Christian charity has the right to only hire Christians that fit with their ethos. However, private businesses cannot discriminate based on religious belief. (You run into some collisions between the state and religious groups, though; for example, Catholic Charities in Washington was sued because under state law all companies must provide health coverage for contraception. Eventually, Catholic Charities was forced to pay, and there have been some questions over whether in doing so the court overstepped church/state separation.)

    However, is this religious discrimination? Probably not. The lack of a written agreement is a major issue here. That’s what this case will turn on. To me, it’s an unfair dismissal because of a lack of an agreement about the rules.

    And as for this line:
    “A company that doesn’t wish to hire any white people has the right to do so. Except that they don’t.”

    This is because if they’re not hiring white people, the EEOC can and will come knocking. Reverse discrimination cases have been heard and won. And remember that an organization can only discriminate on the grounds of religion if hiring people outside their religion would violate the organization’s core religious ethos.




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  8. Attila Girl says:

    This should have been put in writing, but I’m having a hard time sympathizing with a woman who felt compelled to bring bacon/ham onto the premises of a company that was predominantly Muslim.

    If I worked at a Jewish-owned company and the lunchroom had separate lunch plates (that is, a kosher kitchen), I wouldn’t eat meat on the non-meat plates. Or bring bacon in there, for that matter.

    No sympathy for her at all.




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  9. Liberty One says:

    Amazing the reposnes on this article. Corporate America is privatising everything and the bill of rights state clearly that religion does not play a part in our society. That is the first step to discrimination based on religion.

    I can’t understand anyone supporting this move by a company that is located in the Untied States of America, what are you trying to do, throw out our bill of rights or just give companies more rights than the people?




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  10. Mr_Ed says:

    This may seem like a fine point to some, but it appears the business is attempting to force a restriction based on religious doctrine upon an employee. Most people are aware that muslims do not consume pork or pork products, but I am not aware of anything that tells muslims they cannot be around someone who does.

    I’ll say up front I am quite ignorant about the muslim faith so anyone who knows may feel free to correct me on that, but I have had muslim co-workers over the years. They had no problem going out to lunch with everyone else as long as the restaurant had something on the menu that met their requirements, or having lunch as a group in the company break room. At appropriate times during the day, they found a quiet room to pray, they fasted, they even took time off work occasionally to take part in religious events. The muslims I have met and worked with over the years seemed happy to practice their faith AND show some TOLERANCE for the fact that others may not share their religious views. Perhaps this business owner could look at it that way.

    Aside from criminal activity and its negative ramifications, I am one of those who believes a business does not have the right to dictate what an employee does on his/her own time. I don’t know the written policies of this particular employer, but most companies do not pay employees for the time they spend having lunch. That makes it the employee’s time in my book.

    I think if this story gets more publicity, it will only serve to promote a stereotype of the “intolerant muslim” who will go to extremes to force his beliefs. This is to the detrement of muslims (like the ones I have personally known) that are trying to be an integral part of our society under increasing stresses and scrutiny in the wake of recent events in the world stage.




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  11. Tracey says:

    If the fired woman’s religion *required* her to eat pork for some reason, this would be a very different case, and the article above seems to talk about it as if that’s what’s going on here. But we’re not talking about preventing someone from observing a religious requirement. Does being Catholic mean you have to eat pork for lunch? We’re talking about preventing employees, during working hours, from doing something that is offensive to her employer and that is not necessary (there are plenty of other things she could eat).

    In response to the person who said she should be warned first: read the article more carefully. After the first violation, she was warned. After she was warned, she came in with a BLT. She was fired for the BLT, brought in after the warning. In fact, the Miami Herald article about this case indicates that the woman brought pork into the building two more times after she was warned, and she was fired the second time (the third violation, two of which occurred after a warning). The Miami Herald article quotes the employer saying, “I think she was trying to make a statement.”

    This doesn’t sound like a case of an employee defending her religious freedom. It sounds like yet another case of liberal intolerance: those who do not believe in rules imposing their rule-less norm on those who do believe in rules.




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  12. Bud says:

    I beleive it is also Muslim religion that women should not show their face or most of their body. Would that be acceptable in the USA? (if i’m wrong, pretend for a minute that is how it is)For a company to require that a woman dress in such a way only because the company owners religious belief is such? That would be humilitating to most women, but legal? Really makes me think of the line “if you show your face around here again, your fired!”.

    Where do you draw the line on such things? The way I see it is this. There was absolutelly nothing wrong with her eating a very common, very accepted food in this country, except that the owners personal belief is that it is wrong.

    You have a company ORDERING it’s employees to eat only a list of foods that they feel are ‘clean’ by their religion. I really am surprised that so many people think this is totally OK to do. It is basically forcing your beliefs on others, and threatening them with termination from their job for no other reason then they have different beliefs.

    What if I start a company, and only allow fish on fridays? Anyone caught eating any other food will be fired. Obviously in the opinion of most people here I would be in the legal right to do so. Perhaps my religion dictates that the human body should be shown, so i’ll not allow clothing other then thong bikini’s, or nothing at all. Personal headphones are ok, but only if you listen to metal. People listening to country music will be fired, even if it is on headphones and nobody else can hear it, it offends me just knowing.




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  13. G Coop says:

    Amendment I

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    Seems to me that this is not only supposed to protect my right “TO” religion, but also protect from religion, looks to me a cut and dry case of religious discrimination, especially when ones religious views affect someone not of that religion.




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  14. James Joyner says:

    Well, except that the business owner isn’t Congress. The 1st Amendment protects you against government action, not private action. The courts have blurred that line somewhat, erroneously in my view, but it certainly wasn’t the intent of those who wrote the Amendment.




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