A car dealership in New Jersey fired its general manager because he wouldn’t pray and take part in Bible study groups at work, which set him at odds with his devoutly Christian boss who insisted in placing a Bible in the glove compartment of every car the dealership sold, according to a lawsuit filed in New Jersey District Court last week.
Joseph T. Haughey, who had extensive experience at car dealerships, was hired in 2009 as a general manager at the CarSense dealership in Mount Holly, New Jersey, but he was fired in January of 2011 despite glowing performance evaluations, supposedly because he had raised his voice at employees two separate times.
But according to Haughey’s lawsuit, he was really fired because he wouldn’t take part in prayer sessions and a regular Tuesday night Bible study. Haughey says that though he is Roman Catholic, he didn’t often go to church and had not committed Bible passages to memory.
He told the company president Eugene Nincovich that he felt uncomfortable expressing outwardly religious sentiments in a public setting. When he was hired, the suit says, he was informed that CarSense owner and CEO Francis McGowan was “a very religious man,” but that he didn’t force his religion on his employees.
But Haughey quickly found out that McGowan did, in fact, force his religion on his employees, the allegations in the suit say. Staff meetings opened with prayers and employees were expected to take turns leading the prayer sessions. McGowan, Nicovich, as well as Haughey’s fellow general managers, spent portions of each work day reading the Bible rather than selling cars.
During one employee meeting, Haughey’s suit recounts, McGowan started sobbing and declared that he was eagerly looking forward to his own death, which he referred to as “that glorious day,” because at that time he would be allowed to “spend eternity in heaven with Jesus.”
A shocked Haughey was left speechless, but his lack of response, according to the suit, upset McGowan and three weeks after that bizarre incident, Haughey was fired.
A few months earlier, Nincovich told Haughey he was doing a great job selling cars, but he lacked in “leadership” because he didn’t display enough religious devotion and refused to take part in the company prayer sessions.
Haghey’s suit asks that he be paid the wages he says he lost by being wrongly fired as well as damages for pain and suffering.
In addition to his refusal to lead prayer meetings, according to the lawsuit, Haughey’s bosses also ordered him to fire African-American employees, or at least make sure that they did not interact with customers.