Federal lawsuit: Texas medical practice owners tried to make staff 'more godly'

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit Sept. 20 against Shepherd Healthcare, a medical practice in Lewisville, Texas, alleging the company violated federal law by failing to accommodate the religious beliefs of at least four employees, according to The Dallas Morning News

The lawsuit alleges Shepherd Healthcare's owners, Timothy Shepherd, MD, and his wife, held daily mandatory meetings that included Bible readings and discussion of biblical principles. Almeda Gibson, a former employee of the medical practice who is a follower of Buddhism, said her requests to be excused from the meetings were repeatedly ignored or denied. She was fired in 2016, a day after making a final request to be excused from the meetings, according to the lawsuit.  

The lawsuit alleges one of the owners of the medical practice told an employee that being a single mother was "not what God wanted." That employee was subsequently fired for "insubordination," after refusing to go to counseling, according to the lawsuit. Another employee, who worked at Shepherd Healthcare for about four years, claims she was told to be "more godly," and was subsequently removed from her position.

Shepherd Healthcare denies the allegations.

"Were there Bible studies? Sure. Was there an emphasis that staff should come? Yes. But was anyone ever punished for not coming? No," Tom Brandon, an employment lawyer representing the medical practice, told The Dallas Morning News.

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