UPDATE: UPS sent us the following statement at 2:20 p.m.: “We have investigated the claims made by Liberty Counsel in their letter to UPS. We believe there is a misunderstanding and we have reached out to them to clarify the situation regarding employees at our site. UPS employees are permitted to assemble before they start work as long as they follow truck yard safety and conduct rules. No employees have been disciplined in connection with assembly to pray prior to their shift. We look forward to clarifying this situation with Liberty Counsel and our employees at the site.”
Last July a group of South Carolina UPS drivers gathered in the parking lot before the start of their shift to have a moment of prayer.
By January the pre-shift prayer meeting had grown to about 60 UPS workers and it also caught the attention of management.
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On January 16th one of the participants was approached by a manager and told that he could not pray any more on company property “because someone else may feel discriminated against.”
A few days later a second driver was told that they “could no longer pray on company property because it violates others’ religious rights.”
The following week the drivers met in the parking lot but they did not audibly pray. Instead, they bowed their heads for a moment of silence.
Not too long after that gathering, several drivers who had been regulars in the prayer group were fired. And many of the drivers believe the firings were retaliation.
Liberty Counsel, a law firm that specializes in First Amendment cases, sent a demand letter to UPS calling for the workers to be reinstated and the prayer ban to be lifted.
“Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on religion,” Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver said. “These UPS drivers may voluntarily gather for prayer in the parking lot before they clock in for work.”
Staver said the prayer ban violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which “prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.”
“UPS must permit the drivers to continue praying together and reinstate the jobs of any who were fired,” Staver said.
The UPS media department did not respond to inquiries seeking comment.