A Michigan dentist who's facing a lawsuit by four former employees for "religious discrimination" argues that she's being attacked for her Christian faith.
The lawsuit, filed in August 2015, alleges that Dr. Tina Marshall of Lake Orion, Michigan, constantly played Christian contemporary music in the office and held mandatory, daily prayer meetings for employees. The employees also argue that they were fired for not following their employer's workplace requirements regarding religion.
Attorney Keith Jablonski, who is representing Marshall, told The Washington Post this week that his client is being attacked for her religious beliefs by "disgruntled employees."
"[Marshall is] being attacked in this lawsuit for her Christian beliefs, based solely on her desire to play religious music and radio stations in the dental office of the business that she owns," Jablonski told the media outlet.
"We believe that when the facts, and not baseless allegations, are presented to a jury, we will establish that this group of former disgruntled employees are simply looking to profit off of their own prejudices toward Marshall and her Christian faith," he continued, adding, "Marshall flatly denies engaging in any discriminatory employment practices."
During an interview with Clarkston News last week, Marshall denied ever holding mandatory prayer meetings, although she did admit to praying with willing employees on certain occasions.
She also argues that she enjoyed playing Christian music at her business because it is "soothing to the spirit," adding that she received compliments from several customers regarding her music selection.
"Playing the Christian music is just to keep God on your mind," Marshall told the local media outlet.
According to the four former employees filing the lawsuit, Sara Bambard, Kimberly Hinson, Nancy Kordus, and Tammy Kulis, the atmosphere at Marshall's office changed when she hired Dr. Craig Stasio as a consultant to restructure her office for two days in 2015.
The lawsuit argues that after Stasio was hired, the majority of office employees were either fired or laid off. The plaintiffs argue that these firings took place because employees' religious views differed from Marshall's.
Stasio is a registered chiropractor who organizes Christian group gatherings that involve "getting together, eating, praying, worshiping, reading the Bible, and fellowshipping," according to the Oxford Leader.
Stasio has denied claims by some members of the community who claim that his religious ministry is a cult. Marshall and her husband have been friends with Stasio for multiple years, and attend his religious ministry gatherings.
Marshall has defended her business, telling the Oxford Leader that she started receiving backlash from some employees after she began playing Christian music in her office. It is then that she decided to have Stasio, a family friend, come in and help her manage her business.
"It kind of all started a while ago when I wanted to play the Christian music," she said. "There were a number of them that didn't feel it was right, so some left right away. Others just kind of fought me on it all the time. It was getting really frustrating. They didn't do it on purpose, they were wonderful people, and it was very difficult for me. I was like OK, 'I needed help.'"
According to The Washington Post, the lawsuit is still in the discovery phase and could begin as early as June.