Woman's refusal to sing "Happy Birthday led to firing

WFAA TV, Texas/October 2, 2006
By Chris Hawes

Mesquite -- A North Texas woman says she’s in a battle over the “Happy Birthday” song after she refused to sing it at her work.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, “Happy Birthday” is the most popular song in the English language. People who work at the Razzoo’s in Mesquite probably wouldn’t be too surprised to hear that since they find themselves singing it daily for customers.

Sabrina Balentine, 19, was among those who worked at the restaurant.

“She happens to be a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses,” said Toby Costas, an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission attorney representing Balentine.

As a Jehovah Witness, Balentine said she can’t sing the birthday song.

“Birthday celebrations, we believe, are spoken of against in the bible, and holiday celebrations…,” said John Priester, Jehovah’s Witness elder.

“It’s not for everybody,” said one Razzoo’s worker. “You have to respect their choices.”

But Balentine said her bosses would not compromise.

“They suggested, ‘Could you just clap and smile along with everybody else near the table and not actually sing the birthday song?’” Costas said. “But even that is contrary to the beliefs of her religion.”

Costas said Balentine was fired and the business discriminated against her because of her religion.

In a statement, Razzoo’s said the company does not discriminate on the basis of religion and that, “the company attempted to work with her to accommodate her beliefs, but the fact is that she chose to quit her employment.”

Balentine said she has gone on to work at another restaurant.

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