A Native American construction worker in Oregon has filed a lawsuit claiming he was fired for refusing to attend a weekly Bible study, The Oregonian reports.
Ryan Coleman, 34, is suing Dahled Up Construction for $800,000. Coleman says he was hired as a painter but only later learned that all employees were required to attend regular Bible study sessions.
Coleman said he told his boss, Joel Dahl, that the requirement was illegal to avail.
Coleman claims in the lawsuit that he went along with the requirement for six months in order to keep the job but ultimately told Dahl he could no longer attend.
“I said ‘I’ve kept an open mind, and it’s just not my thing.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m going to have to replace you,’” Coleman told The Oregonian.
“He said ‘You’re not going to tell me how to run my own company.’I said ‘I’m not trying to tell you how to run your own company, but you’re not going to tell me what god to pray to.’”
Coleman said he is half Native American and his religious beliefs are indigenous.
According to the suit, Coleman was fired from the company in April.
“This is so illegal,” Coleman’s lawyer Corinne Schram told The Oregonian. “Unless you are a religious organization like a church, you cannot force your employees to participate in religious activities.”
Via The Oregonian:
Dahl’s Albany attorney, Kent Hickam, doesn’t dispute that Dahl requires all of his employees to attend Bible study, but says it’s legal because Dahl pays them to attend.
“Mr. Dahl feels that it’s unfortunate that he (Coleman) is now trying to exploit Mr. Dahl’s honorable intentions for unjustified financial gain,” Hickman said.
Dahl told The Oregonian/OregonLive that he’d struggled with drugs and alcohol and served time in prison for attempted second-degree assault. He said he’s been clean and sober for seven years. He started his company in 2016, with the idea of helping other convicted felons or people who’ve battled addictions rebuild their lives.
“I’m a second-chance employer,” Dahl said. (Joel Dahl says he’s not related to another second-chance employer, Dave Dahl of Dave’s Killer Bread.)
God is a big part of Joel Dahl’s life. The company’s Facebook page features photos of recently completed home remodels — often alongside praise to God or Jesus.
Coleman said he served prison time for drugs and child neglect but has been clean and sober for nearly four years. Earlier this week, he was granted full custody of his two children.