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Suit says man forced to work on Sabbath

September 09, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

A Hagerstown man has filed a $300,000 religious discrimination lawsuit in federal court alleging that his former employer, Williamsport-based trucking company D.M. Bowman Inc., failed to accommodate his religious practice as a Mennonite of not working Sundays.

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The Rutherford Institute, a private nonprofit organization best known for representing Paula Jones in her sexual harassment suit against President Clinton, is providing some legal and financial assistance to the plaintiff in this case, Edward Pipkin, 38, of 13944 Broadfording Church Road.

Pipkin alleges in the suit filed last week that he was harassed by supervisors because he asked not to work Sundays and eventually was told he had to work Sundays. This created "intolerable" working conditions for Pipkin, which "did in fact force (Pipkin) to quit," the complaint alleges.

D.M. Bowman lawyer Richard Vernon would not comment on the specific allegations in the lawsuit.

"The company intends to fully and vigorously defend against (the lawsuit)," Vernon said.

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He said D.M. Bowman has a history of complying with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations and the company believes it has complied with the law in this case as well.

Pipkin, a truck driver, worked for Bowman from 1994 to 1996. He returned to the company in July 1997 and quit April 9, 1998.

Stephen S. Burgoon, a lawyer representing Pipkin, said before Pipkin was hired both times, Bowman supervisors told him he would not be required to work Sundays. In January 1998, Pipkin began being scheduled to work Sunday shifts, he alleged.

Burgoon said Pipkin quit instead of working Sundays.

"He was forced out because of his sincere belief in the Sabbath," Burgoon said.

Pipkin filed a complaint with the EEOC in early June 1998. He was issued a right to sue notice from the EEOC in June 1999.

The lawsuit was filed Sept. 2 in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Pipkin has requested a jury trial for the lawsuit.

No trial date has been set.

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