Ex-employee sues dentistry, says she was dismissed for not following religious practices
During a four-month tenure at a Columbia dentistry, a Glen Burnie woman claims she was unwillingly subjected to the ways of the Church of Scientology and then unjustly fired.
She alleges she had to take a personality test primarily used by Scientologists before she was hired. She claims she had to attend seminars based on the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. And she maintains her employer told her that her lifestyle didn’t mesh with the Scientology philosophy and then fired her.
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Tammy Bright, 44, is now suing Smile Savers Dentistry for $400,000, accusing it of discrimination because she did not adapt her religious beliefs to Scientology.
Devora Lindeman, a Newark, N.J., attorney representing the dentistry operated by Dr. Daniel Stewart, denies the allegations and said Bright was fired for “poor performance.”
Lindeman said that while the dentistry used “management and administrative technology” developed by Hubbard, the techniques had no religious undertones.
“There was no religious discrimination, no religious influence in the workplace … no religious requirements, no religion imposed upon her,” she said.
A single mother with two children, who are now 17 and 24, Bright attempted to follow her employer’s rules to protect her financial well-being, said her attorney, Harold B. Murnane III.
“But after a while, she certainly had concerns and misgivings about what was going on and whether her future employment was being dictated by her performance or was being dictated by other things,” Murnane said.
Bright began working as an accounts manager for Smile Savers, on Route 108 in Columbia, in May 2003, and earned $12.50 an hour, working 35 to 45 hours a week, according to the lawsuit recently filed in Howard County Circuit Court.
Lindeman is working on writing a response to Bright’s allegations. The lawyers for both parties did not want their clients interviewed.
At Smile Savers, Bright’s duties included handling money collection, accounts payable and receivable and insurance matters, the lawsuit states.
Bright attended all seminars that were required of her and other employees where the teachings and philosophies of Scientology were stressed, according to the lawsuit.
At the first seminar, Bright was taught topics including, “How to spot a person who commits an overt act,” and “Aberration: Departure from rational thought,” the suit alleges.
At another seminar, the teachings included: “what is a suppressive person,” “what is a potential trouble source,” and “two type of people: destructive and constructive,” according to the lawsuit.
Lindeman said many employers require workers to attend seminars, and the dentistry’s seminars “are not at all related to the Church of Scientology, and they’re not at all religious.”
In August 2003, Bright received an “excellent review applauding her diligence and work performance” and was given a 50-cent hourly raise, according to the lawsuit.
But a month later, Bright was called into a private meeting by Judy Stewart, Stewart’s wife and the dentistry’s office manager, to discuss her personal life. Judy Stewart gave Bright some pages to read from the ORG.Book, developed by Hubbard and used in the practice of Scientology, the suit alleges.
Judy Stewart told Bright that aspects of her life – her relationship with her ex-husband and her daughter living with the ex-husband – were contrary to the teachings in the ORG.Book. Judy Stewart told Bright that she was a “potential trouble source” and should not be involved in a business’s financial dealings, the lawsuit states.
The next day, Stewart told Bright that he felt something was wrong with the “energy” at the front desk and that Bright’s and a colleague’s personal lives were affecting the dentistry. Stewart told Bright and the other colleague to complete an “Over Act/Withhold Write Up Form” and return to the office with “more positive energy,” according to the lawsuit.
That evening, Judy Stewart called Bright at home and told her to not return to work because “things were just not working out,” the lawsuit said.
Murnane claims that Bright was fired solely because she did not practice Scientology, as Stewart had required.
“It was very troubling [for Bright] to go to work every day,” he said. “It was something that made her very uncomfortable on a daily basis.”
Bright is now working three part-time jobs – at UPS, another dentist office and seasonally for the port of Baltimore, said John Martino, who is also representing Bright.
Lindeman said while Stewart used Hubbard’s management techniques that he developed while founding the church, the theories are “separate and apart from the church” and are taught at Hubbard College of Administration International in Los Angeles.
The college’s Web site claims Hubbard’s administrative technology is the “most widely used administrative system in the world, applied by thousands of businesses and other groups in many nations.” It claims the college is a secular institution and does not teach Scientology principles.
The Stewarts did not get degrees from the Hubbard College, Lindeman said.
Lindeman said that because Bright was at the dentistry for such a brief time it is possible she did not understand there was a difference between Hubbard’s religious teachings and his management techniques.
“The pope talks about love, peace, tolerance, brotherhood. Does that make those concepts only religious concepts?” she said. “Concepts can exist in two worlds.”