STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. – A Pennsylvania Wiccan alleges he was fired by Health + Hospitals Corporation (HHC) from his custodial job due to religious discrimination. In a lawsuit filed May 22, Carl DeLuca says coworkers and supervisors harassed him for over two years for being what they called a “Satanist and terrorist.” Then, in February 2016, he was terminated from his job.
In an interview, DeLuca told The Wild Hunt that he had been harassed over his religion since shortly after starting the job in 2014. Examples of this harassment are outlined in the lawsuit. They include the head of security telling DeLuca to remove his Greenman pendant, although Christian and Jewish employees are allowed to wear symbols of their faith.
Likewise, as he explained, many employees decorated their lockers with religious messages and drawings done in crayon. Yet when DeLuca drew a pentacle on his locker, he was reportedly made to remove it because it was “hate speech toward Christians.”
In spite of the alleged continuous harassment by coworkers and supervisors outside his department, DeLuca says his relationship within his department was cordial. He says that he did not have any disciplinary issues, and his work evaluations were excellent.
DeLuca says the firing came as a complete shock. “I showed up to work one day and security grabbed me at the door and would not tell me why. They took me to my locker then told me that people reported I had weapons and other paraphernalia in my locker.”
DeLuca says that, although nothing illegal or problematic was found in his locker, his personal effects were packed and he was escorted off the premises. He says that hospital administrators have never articulated a reason for the firing and they have claimed that they do not need to provide a reason.
DeLuca has said that even his direct supervisors were shocked by his termination, calling him on the evening that he was fired and asking him what had happened.
DeLuca believes that he was fired because hospital management misunderstood and feared his religion.
“There were rumors about me. …that I worshiped the devil. That I would bring weapons to work and hurt people. That I was a Satanist and a terrorist,” says DeLuca. He believes those rumors about his religion were why his locker was searched, culminating in termination.
DeLuca’s attorney William Perniciaro told The Wild Hunt that DeLuca was terminated due to a lack of understanding and fear over DeLuca’s Wiccan religion: “Wicca does not have formal places for worship, like churches and temples, and is focused on more natural settings such as the outdoors. This evokes fear in non-Wiccans.”
“It seems like every horror movie these days always involves ‘the woods’ and all the creatures lurking therein,” Perniciaro went on to say. “By contrast, Wicca embraces nature and recognizes our part in it. The outdoors is not scary at all to Wiccans, and it is this very focus that people do not understand. Also the religion has deities or objects of respect or worship that are reviled in other religions such as horned or hoofed animals. Thus, Christians especially, immediately think of Satan and that all pagans are ‘devil worshippers; embracing all that is evil. It may be that early Christianity was promoted by means of reviling pagan beliefs and this revulsion has become part of our culture.”DeLuca, now employed as a plumber in Pennsylvania, says this entire incident has been a very difficult experience for him and his family: “I lost everything over my beliefs. A great job. I was promised big advancements at the hospital. I have two children who lost medical coverage. Over what I believe in.”
Mr. Perniciaro says, ”Carl’s religion is no different than any other in our country yet many believe it involves dangerous practices. I know this is not true. He has every right to practice it since it is harmless and protected by law.”
Health + Hospitals did not respond to The Wild Hunt ‘s inquiries, but hospital management did comment to Staten Island LIVE , saying that Health + Hospitals “doesn’t discriminate on the basis of religion or sincerely held religious belief. Religion is never a factor in our employment-related decisions.”
DeLuca is seeking $10,000,000 in damages, reinstatement to his position, and attorney’s fees.