Arizona Eatery Company Sued over Bible Meetings

June 9, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The federal agency charged with enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the workplace is suing an Arizona restaurant chain for firing a manager for conducting a Bible-study group that included employees.

An attorney for Serrano’s Mexican Restaurants said the weekly meetings violated the company’s long-standing anti-fraternization rule, according to The Arizona Republic.

The case stems from activities by manager Terra Naeve on her own time, according to the Republic report. Naeve, 33, was the general manager at a Mesa restaurant for more than a year and began leading Bible-study classes as part of her duties with her Church of the Nazarene congregation. The news report said that three of the seven people who showed up were recent additions to the church as well as her employees.

It is well-established that Serrano’s managers cannot socialize with their subordinates outside of work, attorney Peter Prynkiewicz said, in order to prevent favoritism. Two months before the bible classes began, the company issued the policy in writing, according to the report.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is pursuing the civil case on Naeve’s behalf, said the company rule should not apply because it interferes with how she practices her “devoutly held” religion.

The EEOC is seeking $50,000 in back pay and compensatory damages for Naeve, who was fired.

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