local6.com (Fla.), August 4, 2004
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.
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.”
Both sides are steadfast in their belief that they are right. Morales is taking the company to court charging discrimination, Local 6 News reported.