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A former toll-taker for New Jersey's Garden State Parkway has filed a lawsuit against her ex-employer, claiming that her supervisor instructed her to stop saying "God bless you" to motorists.
Cynthia Fernandez claims that her civil rights were violated when her boss at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority allegedly told her to stop giving customers her customary blessing because somebody might get offended.
But turnpike officials tell a different story.
According to a spokesman for the Turnpike Authority, there is no policy against toll-takers saying "God bless you." And though the Authority would not comment on the lawsuit, they claim that Fernandez never mentioned anything about the alleged "God bless you" discrimination until after she had already quit. She allegedly spent only six weeks on the job because she didn't like her work schedule.
"Ms. Fernandez was briefly employed as a part-time toll collector. She decided to quit rather than wait for a full-time position to open," Turnpike Authority spokesman Tom Feeney told The Star-Ledger.
Generally, employees have the right to be free from religious discrimination in the workplace. This covers unequal treatment on the basis of an employee's religion, workplace policies that may have a disparate impact on religious groups, or a hostile work environment in which an employee is harassed or intimidated on the basis of their religious beliefs.
Among the types of prohibited harassment, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is requiring or coercing an employee to "abandon, alter, or adopt a religious practice as a condition of employment, or for example, when an employee is subjected to unwelcome remarks or conduct based on religion."
In her lawsuit, Fernandez is seeking back pay as well as a cash settlement from the authority, reports New York's WCBS-TV.
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