The New Testament refers to Jesus as the light of the world.
A new lawsuit says there’s no room for Jesus when you’re interviewing someone for a job in the world of lighting products.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Lincoln-based Voss Lighting — saying an official at Voss’ Tulsa outlet “interrogated” a job applicant about his religious beliefs and “expressed overt agitation and disapproval at (the applicant’s) responses.”
Filing the lawsuit on behalf of Oklahoma resident Edward Wolfe, the EEOC says Voss Lighting “rejected Wolfe because his religious beliefs did not comport” with those of Voss.
The EEOC has asked a federal judge in Oklahoma to order Voss Lighting to refrain from making hiring decisions “on the basis of an applicant’s religious beliefs or non-beliefs.” It also seeks money to compensate Wolfe for lost pay.
Voss Lighting denies that it discriminated against Wolfe based on religious beliefs. Steve Sanderson, vice president and general manager of the company, said the company would like to counter many points of the lawsuit but will do so in court.
Sanderson issued a statement: “Voss denies that the charging party was not hired as a consequence of his religious beliefs. The individual hired by Voss had more lighting product experience and was more qualified than the charging party. Voss looks forward to a judicial determination of the rights of the parties.”
Voss, founded in 1939, is unabashed about its religious beliefs in company literature. Its website refers to both its “business mission” and its “biblical” mission: “to ‘sell’ our lighting products so that we may ‘tell’ everyone we can about God’s soul-saving, life-transforming gospel.”
The website also refers to four “interwoven threads” in the history of Voss Lighting: “sweat, sales, salvation and sovereignty.” And it lists the dates at which each Voss became a born-again Christian.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit:
Voss’ Tulsa store advertised for its open supervisor job on the website of the First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla. Wolfe learned of the position through a member of the church. He contacted, then met with, a store official.
Wolfe alleges that the official made “casual inquiries” into Wolfe’s religious background but mainly focused on the job.
Wolfe contends that the official told Wolfe he was a perfect fit for the job and that he would hire Wolfe if it was his decision. Wolfe then interviewed with the store’s manager.
The manager, the lawsuit says, asked Wolfe if he attended First Baptist, then went on to “interrogate Wolfe” — “asking him to identify every church he had attended ... where and when Wolfe was saved ... and whether Wolfe would have a problem coming into work early to attend Bible study before clocking in.”