Oregon dentist fined for pressuring employee to attend Scientology seminar

BEND, Ore. — State labor officials have ordered a dentist to pay nearly $348,000 to settle allegations that he threatened … Continued

BEND, Ore. — State labor officials have ordered a dentist to pay nearly $348,000 to settle allegations that he threatened to fire a dental assistant unless she attended a Scientology-related training session.

The Bureau of Labor and Industries contends Dr. Andrew W. Engel repeatedly “badgered” Susan Muhleman about the three-day conference despite her concerns that it would conflict with her Christian beliefs. He also turned down her request to attend secular training instead, investigators said.

As a result, Muhleman quit AWE Dental Spa in August 2009 — weeks before the conference — and moved out of state to find a job, the state agency said.

Muhleman said she was opposed to going to the Scientology conference but worried about losing her job at the height of the recession, when the local jobless rate was about 15 percent.

She was the only person in her family employed full time, she said.

“It weighed very heavy on me to have to make a decision like that for the future of my family,” she said.

Muhleman filed a complaint with BOLI’s civil rights division in November 2009, launching the investigation. Religious discrimination cases are relatively rare, comprising just 3 percent of the agency’s annual workload.

Engel was not available for comment. He gained his dental license in Oregon in 1998. State Board of Dentistry records show the body has never taken disciplinary action against Engel.

Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said the penalty will cover the woman’s lost wages and damages as well as moving expenses and emotional distress.

Employees should feel “secure from an employer’s pressure to do something that conflicts with their religious beliefs,” he said in a written statement.

(Molly Young writes for The Oregonian in Portland, Ore.)

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  • Scnethics

    Having worked in scientology-owned companies (and run a company of my own) where non-scientologists were forced to study L. Ron Hubbard administrative policies and do some really strange things he prescribed, I’m pleased to see someone having to pay the price for it. As a scientologist, I was always hoping that the non-scientologists would see the light and realize how great scientology was, and I liked seeing them forced to use scientology. As an ex-scientologist, I can see how misguided I was.

  • ReadMoreWatchLess

    Even the ex-scientologist haters agree it was a purely “administrative policies” seminar — meaning non-religious — seminar. And for this she got money?

    The dentist’s attorney must have been asleep at the desk.

    Religion:

    God, gods, theology, holiness, prayers, rituals, rites, sacraments, eternal life, all that stuff.

    Business Administration:

    Greet patients warmly. Offer water or tea. Keep waiting room neat. Ensure all forms are complete and signed. Direct medical inquiries to dentist; don’t attempt to answer. Give Ann all payments received.

    Is this a tough distinction?

  • Scnethics

    Everything taught on these courses is part of the core information one needs to know in order to be a scientologist. It is both an imparting of knowledge that scientologists consider sacred and a conditioning and familiarizing with the faith that could (and often does) result in a recruitment into the cult.

    Part of Hubbard’s administrative policies are his “conditions of existence”. On introductory administrative courses like the one the dentist was trying to force his employee into, you learn about this. Your “condition of existence” is determined by the amount of production you manage at your job in a given time period (usually one week). You are taught that this “condition of existence” is a universal fact which you must accept without proof. If your production is drastically lower than on the previous week, you are in a “condition” called “danger”. If your condition is “danger”, you must apply the “danger formula”, a series of steps that includes writing down all your “overts and withholds” (scientology terms for sins both known and hidden), and turning these into your supervisor. In-office confessionals seem rather religious to me.

    The “conditions of existence” have never been tested in a scientific way. Only scientologists believe L. Ron Hubbard’s “conditions of existence” exist and work the way he said they do. One is asked to take a leap of faith to believe that these exist and one is required to continue to apply the formulas even if one observes for oneself that they do not result in improved statistics. If you don’t want to follow the formulas, YOU are the problem. Even if your lower statistics are clearly the result of something out of your control, you must apply the formula for the condition your statistic indicates. They may as well be requiring that you pray to God for higher statistics as the compulsory aspect combined with the religious nature of the material applied constitutes and enforcement of a particular religion on an employee.