Jehovah’s Witnesses win more than $1 million in lawsuit

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(RNS) Two Jehovah’s Witnesses received more than $1.3 million in a religious discrimination lawsuit against AT&T, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced on Friday (July 31).

Jose Gonzalez and Glenn Owen, former AT&T customer service technicians, lost their jobs after attending a Jehovah’s Witness Convention in July 2005. The men had submitted several written requests to miss work for the July 15-17, 2005 convention, but their supervisor denied the requests, said EEOC regional attorney Faye Williams. When the men failed to report to work July 15, they were suspended and subsequently fired.

In a 2007 trial, a jury awarded the former AT&T employees $296,000 in back pay and $460,000 in compensatory damages. AT&T appealed the jury verdict to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the verdict was upheld, and the amount awarded grew to $1,307,597 to include interest and front pay, according to a July 31 EEOC news release.

“We have a long-standing practice of inclusiveness in the workplace. We consider this action — which is the result of discussions among the parties — to bring this matter to a close,” AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said of the resolution.

AT&T’s Web site states that, “AT&T employees are protected from unlawful discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, marital status, citizenship status, creed, military status, veteran status, disability or any other protected characteristic.”

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