The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 13, 2012

Bias suit for Oklahoma man names Nebraska company

LINCOLN, Neb. — A Nebraska-based lighting supply company violated federal law when it refused to hire an Oklahoma man because of his religious beliefs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges in a lawsuit.

The Lincoln Journal Star says the commission filed its claim Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tulsa, Okla.

The lawsuit says Voss Lighting, of Lincoln, violated federal law by refusing to hire Edward Wolfe at its Tulsa location. The EEOC says Wolfe was a qualified applicant.

“Voss Lighting appears to have a corporate culture that requires employees adhere to certain religious beliefs that have absolutely no bearing on the business of selling lighting products,” EEOC trial attorney Patrick Holman said in a news release. “This litigation, we hope, will serve to illuminate Voss Lighting as to Title VII’s prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of religion.”

Title VII refers to a title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Company Vice President Steve Sanderson told the Journal Star that the company denied the allegation. He says the person hired was more qualified than Wolfe.

According to the lawsuit, Voss advertised the job in Tulsa through a Baptist church attended by one of the managers in the Tulsa office. Wolfe, who did not attend the church, learned about the job and applied for the position.

The lawsuit says that during the interview, Wolfe was subjected to numerous questions about his religious beliefs and practices. He allegedly was asked to identify churches he had attended, where and when he was “saved” and whether he would have a problem coming to work early to attend Bible study.

In a second interview, Voss’s Tulsa branch manager became upset over Wolfe’s responses to the religious questions, according to the lawsuit.

The EEOC said it will seek reimbursement for the pay Wolfe would have received if he was hired, as well as an order for front pay or placement in the job. The agency also said it will seek damages, as well as a court order prohibiting Voss from any further religious discrimination. The company’s website shows it has offices in 20 locations.


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