EEOC: Company Forced Employees To Practice Onion-Based Religion

loveThis could just be a regular story about a company allegedly using its power over employees to force them to practice a specific religion until the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission intervened, and that would be interesting enough. However, an EEOC lawsuit alleges that the owners of a Long Island health insurance company forced employees to practice a belief system started by a relative.

That practice is called Harnessing Happiness, or Onionhead. Legally, it’s organized as a nonprofit organization, but doesn’t call itself a church.

Unlike major world religions, Onionhead admits that its central figure is a fictional character invented by the founder: an anthropomorphic onion meant to help teach the religion’s lessons about feelings to children. And YouTube surfers.

The founder explains:

We used an onion as a medium to express peeling our feelings, as a way of healing our feelings. As well, an onion has no gender, which is beneficial for children’s usage.

Okay, cool. People can practice whatever religion they like, or follow any philosophy that interests them, but what they can’t do is pressure or force their employees to do the same. That’s what the owners of this company are accused of doing.

“Employees were told [to] wear Onionhead buttons, pull Onionhead cards to place near their work stations and keep only dim lighting in the workplace,” notes the EEOC. “None of these practices was work-related.” The lawsuit alleges that workers also had to take part in group prayers, burning candles, and “discussions of spiritual texts.” Employees who weren’t interested or who protested the practice of this belief system at work were fired.

In a statement to media, the company said they are a caring, small, family-oriented business and that the allegations are false. “Given how we treat our employees, we are saddened that our government would subject our company to the expense of this meritless lawsuit,” the company said.

EEOC Sues United Health Programs of America and Parent Company for Religious Discrimination [Press Release]
Lawsuit: Syosset company fired workers who refused to pray [Newsday]