SUBLETTE COUNTY – There was little argument that former Enterprise Products employee Benjamin D. Crosland could have reason to believe the company discriminated against when it cut its pay and his benefits, then fired him after claiming religious exemptions to wear a mask or get a COVID shot.
Crosland, who worked for Enterprise for 14 years, said company executives “wrongly fired” him and filed four claims for redress in his 9th District Court civil complaint.
But on Friday, in a videoconference hearing, District Judge Marv Tyler told Crosland his courtroom was not the first place Crosland needed to make his claims.
Crosland looked stunned, repeating that he wanted justice done in this courtroom. He said he should âcall on Godâ for justice.
The hearing centered on Enterprise attorney Timothy Stubson’s amended motion to dismiss the lawsuit, stating that Crosland must first “exhaust” administrative remedies by filing a grievance with the Equality Commission. Opportunity in Employment or the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services.
Crosland asked how these agencies could provide him with rights that God has already granted him. He said no lawyer would take his case, so he was representing himself. âI want a jury trial so the truth can be heard. “
Further, Stubson argued that Crosland’s claims of reckless endangerment and federally protected activities are not viable civil claims.
Stubson summed up the company’s âchanging circumstancesâ during the COVID-19 pandemic with policies to enforce employee compliance by getting vaccinated or wearing a face mask. Crosland provided religious objections and was asked to find solutions during the day; the proposals he made were rejected and he was fired.
âThe allegations are pretty straightforward,â Stubson said of Crosland’s claims. âWe don’t dispute them. This is not a vaccine warrant case. “
The company has adopted the COVID policy “to induce and encourage employees to get vaccinated” as well as masking and social distancing, he said. Enterprise determined that it could not accept the solutions offered by Crosland, such as driving a fleet truck alone. He was fired that day.
When it was his turn, Crosland said he was grateful to be here, “to have a life in a land where people have died to provide me with these rights and to preserve these rights.”
He said he had witnesses and evidence that Enterprise supervisors failed to follow mask and distancing policies.
âPut the First Amendment there, put the Fifth Amendment there,â he said, adding that Wyoming’s constitution gives citizens the right to access health care so people can take their health care. own decisions. âWhen do my rights end? “
Justice Tyler asked Crosland if he had reviewed federal and state cases and laws regarding the referral of employee grievances to the EEOC. âYes,â Crosland said. Likewise, he said he read Wyoming’s Fair Labor Standards and Civil Rights Act.
âFor me, my rights were given to me by God and the government is supposed to protect those rights,â Crosland said. He reviewed interactions with company officials before he was fired, saying they both needed more time and discussion.
âThey fired me because Enterpriseâ¦ I represent too great a financial burden, I represent a risk to their health and safety. Are we going to be bound by money or are we going to be bound by rights in this country? I’m just trying to protect our rights as a citizen, taxpayer.
Judge Tyler then referred directly to Wyoming’s employment laws, reading aloud to Crosland that it is unfair to fire, demote or discriminate against a qualified person, disabled or otherwise, on the basis of race, belief, gender and other personal reasons.
He then read the definition of “belief” as “a formal declaration of religious beliefs”, adding that the law makes discrimination on this basis unfair.
âYou should file a claim with the Wyoming Department of Labor,â he said. âYou can assert your rights with the Ministry of Labor. “
He told Crosland that Stubson was saying, ââ¦ You can’t sue first; you have to go to an agency to pursue that. If this is true, the court cannot take action because you did not take the action.
He continued, âEverything says you have your rights. The question is how to pursue these two claims in particular.
Crosland said he understood the argument, but âI was fired one day right after trying to make accommodations. â¦ No discussions, that’s all.
Judge Tyler then read federal law stating that it is illegal for an employer to fire or discriminate or separate employees with pay or work specifically on the basis of religion “but you must sue through from one of the two agencies. I just want you to understand what is the basis (for the motion to dismiss). “
“Do you have a position on this,” Judge Tyler asked Crosland.
âLooks like he’s being rejected,â Crosland said. â… I don’t know that my rights only exist through one of these agencies. “
The judge said he was “trying to articulate” the basis for Enterprise’s motion to dismiss – that a person is required to pursue the discrimination remedy at the state or federal level before proceeding. ‘take legal action “because you don’t understand”.
Crosland again requested a trial by jury and justice. âI won’t hurt anyone. If this tribunal can’t do me justice … I’m going to ask God to step in here and take care of this for me.
Stubson said he appreciated Crosland’s passion for constitutional rights âbut there is a mechanism to facilitate the protection of those rights. A very simple procedure that was not done in this case.
Judge Tyler then ruled that Crosland “had not exhausted administrative remedies (under state or federal law) based on religion or creed” and ordered the lawsuit dismissed.
He asked if Croland had anything to say. After a long pause, Crosland said, âNo. “
Justice Tyler said as a pro se plaintiff he could appeal legal errors to the Wyoming Supreme Court.
âI’m just looking for justice,â Crosland said. âIf I don’t get justice here, I’m just going to ask God to give justice to the people here. “