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the root of all evil

A Houston woman has successfully sued both her former employer and her supervisor for sexual harassment, hostile environment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Virginia Weller's boss at Citation Oil and Gas gave her a religious pamphlet expounding on the "spirit of Jezebel" and quoting a number of biblical verses to substantiate its rather antiquated view of women.

The passages quoted from scripture indicated that the "spirit of Jezebel" is primarily found in females who attempt to seek personal recognition or positions of authority and that women who embrace this "spirit of Jezebel" are not only the root of all evil, but, they are also Satan's agents. The pamphlet concludes that such women must be killed or (at a minimum) tortured.

The tone of the article upset and frightened Ms. Weller, who then asked to be transferred to another position in which she would no longer have to work for her pamphleteering boss. However, management denied the request, saying the company was too small to accommodate her transfer. She was told not to take the contents of the pamphlet personally or literally, and that her boss did not plan on killing or torturing her. Ms. Weller was apparently not comforted by management's words of assurance and encouragement and she decided to quit.

Because Ms. Weller was able to find another similarly paying job within three months, her actual lost wages were only about $18,000. However, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 provides for both compensatory and punitive damages. In this case, Ms. Weller also alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury agreed with Ms. Weller's allegations and returned a verdict in her favor of $300,000

The moral of this story is that while your managers or supervisors may feel that expressing their religious views in the workplace is totally acceptable and protected behavior (which it isn't), such actions can end up costing you, the employer, a very tidy sum, despite the fact that your former employee's actual monetary damages were substantially less.

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