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CitiGroup settles religious discrimination lawsuit

February 02, 2004

By MATTHEW LANE

GREENEVILLE - A $250,000 religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the Tennessee director of American Atheists Inc. against CitiGroup has been settled.

Kingsport attorney Charlton DeVault said the federal lawsuit filed by Carletta Sims was settled through mediation in Knoxville two weeks ago. Under the terms of the settlement, DeVault said he could not disclose what amount of money Sims received.

"She's relieved that it's over, she's pleased that the court reinstated the case on the merits, and she's pleased with the settlement," DeVault said. Sims filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Greeneville in December 2001 claiming she was discharged from the company because she is an atheist.

Sims began working at the former ACS facility, located at 541 Sid Martin Road in Gray, on June 21, 2000. Since that time, ACS sold the property to CitiGroup.

The lawsuit stemmed from an incident in which two female co-workers allegedly became openly hostile toward Sims after she showed them her business card.

The two women complained and were granted a request to be moved away from Sims. The lawsuit claims a picture of Jesus was posted on Sims' computer two days after the incident. After Sims complained about the picture, her supervisor, Russell Rogers, dismissed her on the grounds that she was being a disturbance.

In May 2003, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hull dismissed Sims' lawsuit on the grounds that the decision to discharge Sims was made on inaccurate information and not done intentionally on the basis of her atheistic beliefs. However, in July 2003 Hull reinstated Sims' lawsuit following a request for reconsideration by DeVault.

DeVault argued that management at ACS afforded preferential treatment to the two women, who are Baptists, by granting their request to change workstations.

DeVault further argued that the ACS human resource department failed to conduct an objective investigation and that incorrect and incomplete facts were reported to Russell.

"Religious discrimination (or preferential treatment of Christians) can be inferred and the trier of fact should be allowed to draw that inference,'' Hull wrote in his order. "The court has reconsidered the facts and does believe that an inference of discriminatory intent could be drawn from the facts now before it.''

Copyright 2003 Kingsport Times-News.

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