A federal judge on Monday filed an order granting $338,411 to a former member of a polygamous sect who claimed he lost his job because he became disillusioned with the faith.
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball assessed the amount against the governing bodies of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, based on the Utah-Arizona border, and its leader, Warren Jeffs.
Kimball also ordered the payment of interest calculated both before and after the default judgment, and costs and attorneys fees.
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Whether plaintiff Shem Fischer will be able to collect any of the money remains unknown. Most assets of the FLDS Church are held in trust by the United Effort Plan, which was not a defendant in the suit.
Jeffs, who has been charged in Utah and Arizona with sex-abuse counts that say he played a role in marrying minor girls to older men, is wanted on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Fischer left his job in 2000 as a salesman for Forestwood Co., a wooden cabinetry business based in Hildale, headquarters of the FLDS. He filed a federal lawsuit in 2002 alleging he was forced out because he protested the firing of a fellow employee based on the co-worker’s lack of belief in FLDS doctrine, and because he also rejected certain tenets.
The suit initially named only Forestwood but later was amended to add Jeffs and the FLDS Church as defendants. In March 2005, Fischer won a certificate of default against the governing bodies and Jeffs.
In April, Kimball dismissed the case against Forestwood, agreeing with the company’s argument that Fischer voluntarily quit. The judge asked Fischer what amount of damages he was claiming against Jeffs and the FLDS.
A business appraiser set the amount based on Fischer’s earnings at Forestwood and the average wage increases in Utah.