SUBLETTE COUNTY – A Pinedale man filed a civil suit against his former employer who fired him for not wearing a facemask or getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Benjamin D. Crosland, who worked for Enterprise Products for 14 years, claims that he was “wrongfully terminated” in August after his request for a religious exemption was denied by corporate officials, according to court records.
Enterprise Products Partners responded with motions in the 9th District for a hearing to dismiss the civil complaint.
The motion for dismissal quoted from Crosland’s affidavit for religious exemption – “Plaintiff avers he is a living soul in the image of God. He claims he has been threatened, harassed and intimidated about wearing a mask and that ‘he has a religious objection to the restriction of his connection to this his creator through his breath.’”
On Sept. 7, Crosland filed a summons for the sheriff to serve the complaint to supervisor James Huckaby at Enterprise’s Pinedale office.
In the civil complaint, Crosland says all coworkers were told to get vaccinated or wear a mask and the company discriminated against his refusal, allowing others to work that way without disciplining them.
“(Crosland) has witnessed no disciplining of other non-vaccinated employees not wearing masks after July 26, 2021,” when the corporate COVID policy changed, it says.
He was not allowed to drive a company vehicle unvaccinated, for example, although some work trucks sat empty; further, Crosland claims that vaccinated employees received truck, vacation and other benefits not given to unvaccinated employees, according to his complaint.
He makes four claims against Enterprise for damages and lost wages of $120,000 per year, times 25 years “until (he) would reach retirement age of 72” or $12 million plus damages, records show.
On July 26, board chair Randa Duncan emailed employees about the COVID policy change: “Not getting vaccinated is a personal decision and a risky decision – risky not only to you but also to your family, friends and coworkers. If the decision to not get vaccinated is not based on medical or religious reasons, it is also selfish. …”
Crosland then asked for religious exemption that Huckaby referred to in his Aug. 5 response: “… You have indicated that you have a religious objection to wearing a mask.”
“The Company has considered whether there is a reasonable accommodation that could be implemented without creating an undue hardship and/or present a direct to the health and safety to the employees and contractors that you would interact with during the course and scope of your employment,” Huckaby replied. “The Company has not identified any reasonable accommodation to offer you.”
He gave Crosland one day to respond with solutions.
“In the meantime, the Company is placing you on a leave of absence,” he wrote. “You are not to report to work until further notice unless you are vaccinated or are willing to wear a mask at work or the Company has agreed upon a reasonable accommodation.”
Company officials rejected Crosland’s proposal, saying they considered his “three suggested accommodations in connection with your religious accommodation request … (and) unfortunately none of the suggestions can be implemented.”
Further, because “Enterprise will not be able to accommodate your request, Enterprise is terminating your employment,” wrote human resources director Esmeralda Galvan.