A Plymouth man has filed an employment discrimination complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, contending that he was fired from his job for wearing a Star of David pendant.
In the statement filed with his complaint, William E. Broze says that he worked for Cherne Industries, Inc., of Edina, as a machinist for 29 years. Problems developed when the company issued a new policy manual in August 2009, which changed the dress code for employees, according to Broze. An addendum to the policy manual spelled out restrictions on wearing jewelry.
- William Broze is shown wearing his Star of David pendant, which he customarily tucked inside of his shirt while at work. (Courtesy of Mansfield, Tanick and Cohen, P.A.)
In his statement Broze explained that the new dress code banned jewelry in the workplace, “with the exception of stud earrings and earrings which hug the ear; the only necklaces that could be worn were medical alert necklaces with a break-away chain which were worn inside the shirt. I asked if I would have to remove my necklace and I was told that I would have to.”
In a Sept. 2 meeting with the company president, Joel Statts, Broze said that he was not sure that he could comply with the policy that prohibited him from wearing a Star of David pendant (which Broze refers to as a “Mogen David”). He says that he wore the necklace and pendant inside of his shirt.
Broze says that Statts warned him that he needed to remove the necklace or face suspension.
“I again stated that I did not feel that I could remove the necklace, which as always was beneath my shirt,” Broze says in his statement. “Mr. Statts took my employee badge and told me that I was suspended, pending investigation.” Broze says that a supervisor then escorted him from the building.
On Sept. 4, Broze says that he met again with Statts, and his supervisor, Steve Carlson. “Mr. Statts read a letter to me explaining that I had been terminated for insubordination and failure to comply with company policy,” Broze says in his statement. “I shook hands with both men, thanked them and told them how much I had enjoyed working for them. I was escorted from the building.”
In his statement, Broze explained: “I wear a Mogen David Jewish emblem on a necklace. I wear it underneath my shirt, and have worn it every day since I purchased the necklace in 1987 during a trip to Israel, with the only exception being the days when I had surgery. I was diagnosed with Stage IV bladder cancer in 2005 and had numerous surgeries. My Jewish faith is extremely important to me and wearing the Mogen David is a symbol of that. I feel that the necklace gave me the strength to endure my medical ordeal. I am a convert to Judaism, and even during my treatments, I never missed going to synagogue.”
At the conclusion of his statement, Broze says that his firing was “based illegally on my Jewish faith” and constitutes religious discrimination under state and federal laws.
Broze’s attorney, Marshall Tanick, of the Mansfield, Tanick and Cohen law firm in Minneapolis, told the American Jewish World this week that the employment discrimination complaint is pending before the state agency. He said that the complaint to the Department of Human Rights is “the first step toward pursuing a lawsuit.”
“Regrettably, we have been seeing a rise in religious discrimination cases in the workplace recently, and this case seems to epitomize that trend,” Tanick said.
Ron Compiseno, vice president of human resources for the Oatey Co., in Cleveland, Ohio, the parent company of Cherne Industries, told the AJW on Tuesday that the firm has “responded to the appropriate government agency,” regarding the employment discrimination complaint filed by Broze.
He said that it is the company’s policy not to comment on ongoing personnel matters. Compiseno said that Cherne makes products for the plumbing industry and waterworks.