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Posted on Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 4:35 p.m.

Jehovah's Witness claims discrimination by nursing home

By Lee Higgins

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is alleging in a federal lawsuit that a Pittsfield Township nursing home illegally fired a nursing assistant because she needed certain days of the week off to attend religious services as a Jehovah's Witness.

The EEOC is suing Whitehall Healthcare Center of Ann Arbor on behalf of 30-year-old Bekki Heys of Pittsfield Township, who the lawsuit says was terminated in July 2010.

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According to the lawsuit filed Friday, the company was aware Heys had requested "accommodation to not be scheduled for work on Wednesdays and Sundays due to her sincerely held religious belief as a Jehovah's Witness." However, the suit claims Heys was fired when she informed the company she wouldn't be able to work Sunday, July 18, 2010 because of her religious beliefs.

The suit seeks compensation for Heys and a court order preventing the company from engaging in future religious discrimination against employees. Whitehall administrator John Deluca could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon. Heys also could not be reached for comment.

Lauren Gibbs, trial attorney for the EEOC's Detroit Field Office said in a statement, "An employer has a legal duty to accomodate an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs, plain and simple. Firing someone for asserting that right, violates federal law against religious discrimination and only makes a bad situation worse."

It's the second lawsuit filed against Whitehall in less than three weeks. Last month, three former nursing aides filed a whistleblower lawsuit, alleging that they were fired for reporting patient abuse and neglect at the nursing home on East Morgan Road. The employees' allegedly brought incidents to the attention of state investigators, including a case where a woman had maggots in her genital area.

Download the lawsuit below:


Lee Higgins covers crime and courts for He can be reached by phone at (734) 623-2527 and email at



Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 11:19 p.m.

We do not know the whole story. She may have waited until the last minute to request off. She may have had every sunday for the past year off and they needed to accommodate multiple vacation requests. Or maybe she was a slacker who runs to the EEOC to claim religious discrimination when the company who is paying her finally got tired of her unreasonable scheduling requests and let her go. Who knows? Let's not jump to conclusions.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:31 p.m.

I think we could have done without the maggot description...just sayin'!!!


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

The law does not state that the employer MUST give days off. It must make reasonable accommodations for the person. Is Wednesday and Sunday an all day thing? If she says,. I must go to church between the hours of 10 am - 2 pm, why couldn't she work at 3 pm? The same goes if you are an Orthodox Jew. You can not take from sundown Friday to Sunday off if you are a restaurant employee or if you are a snow plow guy and there is a snow storm. It is not reasonable for conducting business. It is not reasonable for a nursing home to allow their residents to not be cared for because her career choice interferes with her superstition. Another example of religious people trying to get special rights. You can practice whatever religion you want, but that does not mean you have a right to your job and to make those of us who are not religious work around your CHOICE.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 5:38 p.m.

Get out your jump to conclusions mats... lol


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:44 p.m.

Most places ask on their application, when are you available. If she said everyday but Sundays and Wednesdays and they hired her knowing this religious preference, then they had a duty to abide by those restrictions. Its not about the facilities hours of operations, its about what the employee and employer agreed upon from the beginning. My bet is that at the time they hired Bekki Heys they were desperate to have help and made a deal they did not intend to keep in the long term.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

Probably looking for enough compensation to build a new Kingdom Hall!

Ron Granger

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

I'm glad this is only about days off. When I read the headline and saw the picture, I thought this might be over whether someone didn't get their fair share of maggots.


Thu, Dec 15, 2011 : 3:53 a.m.

I was afraid she was forced to decorate the Christmas tree


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

If, during the negotiation period before you accept employment, you were told that you had to work X number of days and they may vary and you accept, but later you say you need specific days off, my opinion is the employer has no obligation to comply with your request. If, during that same negotiation, you tell the prospective employer that you must have X days off, they agree and then once you begin working they schedule you for those days, then you have a case.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

Religion is a lie anyways. They need to abolish special treatment for religious people as it discriminates against non-religious people. Time to wake up people. There is no God.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 5:35 p.m.

People act like there is no God anyway. So let's play along: What is the "post-God" answer? lol How is that working out?


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:53 p.m.

Could be worse, we could have religious laws forced on the rest of us, say banning gay marriage, gays in the military, government intrusion into womens reproductive decisions etc.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : noon

Was she asking for the entire day off, or just for enough time to attend her services? If she needed a couple of hours off on Wednesday night, does that mean that she could have been scheduled earlier in the day, or exchanged shifts with another coworker? And why should a person have to give up a closely held religious belief in order to maintain a job? Bekki has the right to practice whatever she chooses. Whitehall does not have the right to discriminate and violate Federal EOE laws. I hope she wins. A victory for someone of her faith means equal protection for other religious minorities as well, as pointed out in the article. Because this is a 24/7 operation, it seems to me that they had more opportunities to accommodate her work schedule than other employers have, but simply chose not to do so. Perhaps she worked for a person, who like some on this forum, appear to be bigoted towards others who have a different belief system than theirs.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:19 p.m.

@janeqdoe: THANK YOU. This is sort of my point, too. There is a lot to consider concerning this story.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:47 a.m.

If the case is simply "they wouldn't give me a day off so I didn't show and they fired me", then yes, I can see how people find that ridiculous. Personally, however, I feel like if you hire someone with an understanding that they will only be available for certain days or shifts, and you AGREE to that, then you suddenly decide to change your mind on it later, then well... I blame you as a business for hiring someone you can't accommodate. Be it for religious reasons, your kids, caring for a handicap person, needing to get to another job... whatever the reason. And from the way Whitehall sounds like it's been run, I doubt they were short on staff. (Do you really need extra staff to NOT care for people properly? Just sayin'...) Like I said before, I think important details may be missing from this story, so I am not comfortable jumping to conclusions. I'm sure the courts will work out the truth of the matter. But man... it's hard to really believe in the logic of a place like Whitehall being correct, ever. lol There's no telling how in the world they really treated this woman. (Their reputation proceeds them, I'd say...)

Barb's Mom

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:46 p.m.

@superhappyfunbrett-Your reasoning doesn't hold true. If someone applies for a job and says they "need accommodations for religious reason" and you refuse to hire them, that is discrimination. If the employee worked there for a while and got the accommodations and one time was not able to be given them and she refused to work. That is grounds for firing. A lot of employers have a no-show; no call policy is grounds to fire, especially if the employee asked for the day off first and it was denied. Your "I doubt they were short on staff" is a hollow argument. It is possible that other employees who normally worked on that day had family emergencies that made it impossible for them to work. She is being selfish if she believes only her reasons are valid.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:16 p.m.

@grye: Agreed. But what if this isn't a case of NEEDING this employee to be there? Does that impact things at all? What if it IS more based upon discrimination of her religious beliefs? What if Whitehall just felt like looking for a reason to fire someone they didn't like on a personal level, and disguise it as a "scheduling conflict"? Basically... What if Whitehall just felt like acting crazy? (Something they've been know to do from time to time...) All I'm suggesting is that things may not be as black and white as some here are concluding.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Employers often will accommodate employees requested days off but when there exists a need for the employee to be there, why should other employees have to share the burden and not this one. Employers should state that they will make every attempt to accommodate an employees requested day off but cannot guarantee it will always happen.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:50 a.m.

Yeah, and Bill Knapp's made me work every Easter, get over it.

Momma G

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:41 a.m.

Excuse me, but when you work in a field such as "nursing" you don't always get to opt out of working certain shifts. I'm glad that Heys has her belief's but when it comes to feeding your family, I don't think your Jehovah's are going to feed you or pay your bills. I have my faith, and I notice "public" service people in my church who can't attend services when they are out protecting the public i.e. police officers. Give it up and sure pray you don't win this ridiculous lawsuit.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:26 a.m.

Interesting story. I'd love more details before making judgment, though. One thing I know is Whitehall should probably be closed. It's not operating properly at all. I'd also like to note that I think Witnesses as a majority are wonderful people. I know it can be tempting these days to make blanket statements about groups based upon isolated incidents but I'm not willing to do so here. I prefer to remain reasonable. Call me crazy... :-)


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:17 a.m.

Where is the ACLU on this First Amendment issue? Whether or not you agree with it, it certainly makes more sense than advocating for plastering hate messages on our city buses.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:16 a.m.

SMDH at some of the ignorant comments above. It's called "reasonable accommodation." If it were impossible for them to allow her to take off the requested day(s) and still maintain proper staffing, then she'd be creating an undue hardship and would lose her case.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:27 a.m.

Complain about Bekki Heys if you like but, if you have an issue with the law, your ire really should be directed against the federal lawmakers who enacted the law, as well as against the current lawmakers who could repeal it if they so choose. If the story describes the situation accurately, Ms. Heys is only exerting her rights under federal law.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 5:56 a.m.

The laws are written for legitimate issues. An inconvenience of not being able to attend a religious service in order to perform your job because your employer needs you there is not a legitimate reason.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:01 a.m.

Exactly. We don't know the whole story. Obviously the EEOC felt it was a legitimate issue because they are the ones pursuing the lawsuit. And since this is not the first problem with this establishment recently, why does everyone jump on this woman rather than the repeated offenses from Whitehall? Hmm, could it be because she's one of Jehovah's Witnesses? Either way, no matter how you feel about this person's right, it's their right according to the law. Just because you don't wish to exercise it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Also, judging by the time of year that this took place (summer), it is my experience that Jehovah's Witnesses have a yearly service that they go to in the summer. They usually know the date and request off for it asap, sometimes even January. Is it possible that she requested this date of months in advance and there was no reason why she shouldn't have gotten it, especially if she was usually not scheduled on Sundays? Like I said, we don't know all the details so stop jumping on a person because of their personal beliefs, no matter how strange they may be to you.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:17 a.m.

@cinnabar7071, of course! But, if one DOES choose to exercise that right, and if someone else has an issue with the right being exercised, then ultimately the complaint should be directed to the legislative body responsible for the right's existence in the first place. Otherwise, you're just attacking the symptom and not the cause, so to speak.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:37 a.m.

Just because you have a right doesn't mean you have exercise it. I have the right to be a total idiot, and I do my best not to exercise that right.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:34 a.m.

Sorry, asserting, not exerting. Though I imagine the legal process will be exerting.

Michigan Man

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:09 a.m.

With this kind of bogus lawsuit jamming up our legal system it is pretty clear to me that the current justice system is far more screwed up than our current healthcare system.

Jerry Jones

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:41 a.m.

The following website summarizes over 700 lawsuits filed by Jehovah's Witnesses against their Employers, incidents involving problem JW Employees, and other secret JW "history" court cases: EMPLOYMENT ISSUES UNIQUE TO JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:24 a.m.

Give me a break! It says she "requested" that she not be scheduled on Sundays and Wednesdays. Since when did a "request" for a work schedule become grounds for a lawsuit?? So anyone that is scheduled to work on a day that their church has services can sue their employer from their right to religion? WHAT A JOKE. What a waste of time and money. I bet if you dig deeper you would find out she was fired for an entirely different reason. Just sayin'

Jerry Jones

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:46 a.m.

Sounds as if the Nursing Home had been cooperating with Heyes' request not to work on Wed or Sundays, but there arose one single Sunday which they needed her to work, but Heyes refused to work that one single instance. Hire a Jehovah's Witness, and prepare to take your orders from them.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

Boy O Boy If She Wins this Just caint wait tell the next time they come to my DOOR Looking For a New Members Bekki Heys Will be the name i tell them I guess i will have to tell them NO I have to work to feed my Kids I will not be able to Pray with you today Bekki Heys said so I shop at Lowes TOO (thats another story)


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.

Pure Awesome!


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:51 p.m.

Aren't you overflowing with Gods Grace!

Barb's Mom

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:03 a.m.

I'm sorry but when I worked in a Catholic Hospital as an RN we could not get the same days off each week because other people needed them off also. Especially a weekend day. I could request that I work a different shift, but going into the medical field at a hospital or Extended Care Facility, requires that staff be there 24/7/365. Why should 1 person get every Sunday and Wednesday off when other employees have to give up their religious practices and work those days.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:07 p.m.

I agree with this. What is scary is if she wins this? What about the Muslims that have to pray 5 times a day? Do they need an hour off at certain times of the day to pray? Are we going to fill our courtrooms with this as well? What about the other religions that need certain days to pray. We have gone too far IMO.