Augusta educator files religious discrimination complaint

Augusta religious discrimination complaint

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --
An ed-tech with Augusta's public school system is pursuing legal action against the district, saying the school is punishing her for discussing her faith with a co-worker.
Toni Richardson works with special needs students at Cony High school.
She recently received a memo, which she says threatens her employment with the school district.
This situation stems from a conversation between Richardson and a co-worker who she says she wasn't getting along with.
During that discussion she told a male colleague, who goes to her church, she would pray for him.
The memo says the school investigated the concerns Richardson had about her co-worker.
During that investigation, the district found she had imposed strong religious views onto her colleague.
It says statements like, “I will pray for you” and “you were in my prayers.” aren't acceptable in the context of the conversation.

“It's interesting that the school district found the need to try to discipline or at least provide this coaching memorandum to Toni,” said her attorney, Jeremy Dys. “There was no need for that at all. Employees, especially teachers, are entitled to express their religious beliefs at work, privately with other adults”

Richardson and her attorneys say employers can't punish employees privately discussing their faith in the workplace and the memo has resulted in Richardson acting with unnecessary caution at work.

“I'm just very conscious of what I'm saying at all times, making sure that what comes out of my mouth is not a reflection of anything that has to do with my faith,” she said.
The Augusta school department responded to the complaint today, saying they've already made adjustments to the memo and are disappointed Richardson proceeded against them anyway.
The school's statement says in part:
“We remain strong believers that here in Maine, important issues like this are best resolved through honest and open dialogue, and we believed that this is exactly what was happening and it is so disappointing that our commitment evidently was not shared.  While we disagree with some of the allegations that have been made, now is not the time and place to get into a debate over those issues.”

Richard’s attorney says it may take anywhere from days to years to resolve this issue at the federal level.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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