Jewish man wearing skull cap working from home
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A senior living provider is being sued by a former employee who says he was fired for speaking out against Christian meeting prayers and asking for accommodation for his Jewish faith.

A complaint filed May 16 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta, by Jack Linder alleges that Century Park Associates “acted in bad faith and in willful and wanton disregard” for his federally protected rights. The suit alleges religious discrimination, failure and refusal to accommodate sincerely held religious beliefs, and retaliation.

A spokeswoman from Century Park Associates told McKnight’s Senior Living that the company has not received an official notice of the lawsuit related to independent living community Garden Plaza at Lawrenceville, Lawrenceville, GA, and, therefore, could not comment on any potential or pending litigation.

“Century Park Associates and Garden Plaza of Lawrenceville strive to provide a rewarding and diverse work environment for our valued associates,” the spokeswoman stated. “We will continue to maintain our mission of creating a fulfilling environment where residents and associates thrive through community and belonging.”

She added that Century Park Associates is “committed to creating an environment where all our associates feel valued.”

Linder was hired Aug. 1, 2019, as the sales and marketing director for Garden Plaza at Lawrenceville. He alleges that management meetings, which he said occurred frequently and often spontaneously, always began with Christian prayers, causing him to feel uncomfortable because of his Jewish faith. 

After sharing his discomfort with a supervisor, Linder said, he met in early 2020 with Regional Director of Operations Shay Sorgen, whom he said “made it clear” that Century Park Associates is a “Christian organization” and that the prayers in the workplace would not stop. 

Linder said that the company did not provide adequate accommodations for his faith and retaliated against him by slowly stripping away his authority and job duties. He said that his employment ultimately terminated on April 18, 2020, under the auspices that his job was being eliminated. The employment of the supervisor who shared his concerns with the corporate office — who also is Jewish — also was terminated.

In response to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discrimination notice, Century Park Associates stated that Linder’s employment termination was performance-based and that he did not have a positive effect on occupancy.

The lawsuit alleges that Linder did increase occupancy. Linder said he also received positive performance reviews before his employment was terminated.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers must reasonably accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious, ethical and moral beliefs or practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. The act also protects employees from discrimination and harassment, and it forbids employers from coercing employees to participate in religious activities. 

Failure to comply could result in fines ranging from $50,000 to $300,000 to settle religious charges brought by the EEOC