Can Dave Ramsey Force Religious COVID Beliefs On Employees? Let's Sue And Find Out!
Evangelical financial advisor/radio host Dave Ramsey is no stranger to employment discrimination lawsuits, largely because he is quite fond of discriminating against his employees. His company, Ramsey Solutions, provides finance workshops to churches around the country; it is currently being sued by former employee Caitlin O'Connor, who was fired from her job as an administrative assistant for getting pregnant "out of wedlock." The company has defended this by saying she wasn't fired for getting pregnant, she was fired for having premarital sex, which they say is a violation of the company's "righteous living" policy.
On Thursday, a former employee of Ramsey Solutions filed another lawsuit, this time alleging religious discrimination on the grounds that the company has been operating as a "religious cult" that requires employees to submit to Dave Ramsey's religious beliefs, even when those beliefs put their health in danger.
According to the complaint, video editor John Amos was fired for taking precautions against COVID-19 other than prayer, because Dave Ramsey happens to personally believe that doing anything other than praying to not get COVID-19 will cause one to "fall out of God's favor." Because of Dave Ramsey's stance on this issue, Amos was not allowed to work from home, which he claims put his wife and son in danger.
According to the complaint, Amos was editing movie trailers in California when he was approached in 2019 by a recruiter for Ramsey Solutions. During what the complaint described as a six-month interview process, Amos became concerned after hearing of a "cult-like culture" at Ramsey. He was also concerned that despite its claims, Ramsey was not a "family-friendly" place to work.
Jonathan Street, one of Amos' attorneys, told Religion News Service his client had raised concerns to Ramsey leaders and was assured the rumors were not true and that the company had a "strong commitment to family time for employees." The lawsuit claims Amos was misled in the hiring process.
Street said his client's most pressing concern was his family's well-being.
Amos' wife and son are at high risk for complications of COVID-19, Street said, and his requests to work at home were denied. The lawsuit alleges any concerns about COVID-19 were dismissed as "weakness of spirit," and the spouses of company employees were required to support Ramsey's views on COVID.
The company claims that Amos's claims are overblown, but Ramsey's stance on this matter is well-known. Last year, an employee with concerns about the lack of precautions the company was taking made a report to OSHA, and Ramsey responded by saying they would be taking no such precautions and the employee who made the report should just leave.
"So whoever you are, you moron, you did absolutely no good, except piss me off," he told staff during that meeting, as RNS has previously reported. "You are not welcome here if you are willing to do stuff like that. If you are really scared and you really think that leadership is trying to kill you … please, we love you. Just leave. We really don't want you here."
The company was also criticized last year for having a Christmas party where the catering staff was not allowed to wear masks or gloves.
In a response to Caitlin O'Connor's lawsuit on the company's website, Ramsey explains that he can actually fire people for any reason he wants, because of at-will employment:
I've got a right to tell my employees whatever I want to tell them. They freaking work for me. This is an employment-at-will state, which means if I decide I don't like people with green eyes, I don't have to hire you. I don't have to keep you anymore. There are no eye color discrimination laws, sorry.
And sure, this is true. In the United States, in every state but Montana, employers absolutely can fire you for having green eyes. They can fire you because they were having a bad day and just felt like it, they can fire you for almost any reason there is. It's an absolutely grotesque practice, which is why "at-will employment" is not a thing in any other country on earth.
However! There are exceptions, sort of. If you fire someone for a reason that is covered under discrimination laws, that person can sue you. Well, if they can find a lawyer to do it pro-bono, because otherwise it's largely unaffordable for most people who have just lost their jobs. America!
One of the things you can't (technically) fire people for is their sex or gender, another is getting pregnant. Ramsey Solutions can say they fired Caitlin O'Connor for having premarital sex, but they wouldn't have known she had premarital sex if she hadn't gotten pregnant, which would also not have happened were she a cisgender man.
Another thing you can't fire people for is complaining about a safety risk, whether they report that risk to OSHA or not. Even if an employer really, really loves Jesus, they are still required to keep a safe workplace for their employees. And, even if you really, really, really love Jesus, you can't refuse to hire people who don't, or fire people for not following your religion. And you can't make "not keeping a safe workspace for employees" a part of your religion, either. Nowhere in the Bible does it say "Thou shalt not wash thy hands."
In fact, there is even a part in the Bible where God pretty much tells people to quarantine while he goes about his wrathing, which frequently came in the form of plagues.
Go, my people, enter your rooms and shut the doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until his wrath has passed by. See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer. — Isaiah 26:20-21
The Ramsey Solutions employee handbook specifically says that employees must behave in a manner "consistent with traditional Judeo-Christian values or teaching," which is very obviously not legal given that they are not a church.
"The image of Ramsey Solutions is held out to be Christian. Should a team member engage in behavior not consistent with traditional Judeo-Christian values or teaching, it would damage the image and the value of our good will and our brand. If this should occur, the team member would be subject to review, probation, or termination."
As much as Dave Ramsey might like to have a company where he requires everyone to be Christian, he cannot actually have that, in this, the United States of America. And if he can't have that, he sure as hell can't have a company where he requires people to follow his unusual interpretation of "Judeo-Christian values or teaching."
It's gonna be pretty difficult to sell himself as a financial planning expert if he keeps getting sued by employees for discrimination, so he may want to stop firing people for discriminatory reasons. He should have just told them they were being fired for not having green eyes.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse