Chicago dentist settles suit over religion, sex bias

Chicago Tribune/January 14, 2009

A Chicago dentist agreed Tuesday to pay $462,500 to settle allegations that he violated discrimination laws by forcing employees to submit to indoctrination in the tenets of the Church of Scientology.

The Chicago office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a civil lawsuit against James L. Orrington in September 2007, asserting he had discriminated against 18 female employees by subjecting them to sexual propositions and comments, and by requiring workers "to engage in Scientology religious practices and learn about Scientology as conditions of their employment."

The complaint, filed in federal court in Chicago, also alleged that Orrington had breached U.S. civil-rights law by firing or taking retaliatory actions against employees who complained.

A consent decree filed with the U.S. District Court calls for Orrington to pay $462,500 to the workers involved-ranging from $10,000 for some employees to as high as $42,505 for one-and enjoins the dentist from any further sexual or religious workplace discrimination.

Orrington's attorney, John O'Connor, said that his client "has denied all allegations of unlawful conduct" throughout the case, and "continues to deny them." The matter was settled via the consent decree, O'Connor said, to avoid further expense and disruption of Orrington's business.

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