Lawsuit claims company failed to grant religious exemption for vaccines, masks - Cheyenne, WY Cap City News
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Lawsuit claims company failed to grant religious exemption for vaccines, masks

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CASPER, Wyo. — A lawsuit filed in Sublette County District Court in Pinedale alleges that a private company fired an employee after he refused to wear a mask or receive a COVID-19 vaccination. In the lawsuit the plaintiff claims that the company did not honor his religious beliefs.

The plaintiff in the case, arguing “pro se” or on his own behalf, alleges in an affidavit filed in Sublette County on July 28, 2021 that he “has been threatened, harassed and intimidated about wearing a mask.”

“He has not voluntarily consented to wearing masks,” the affidavit continues. “Has a religious objection to the restriction of his connection this his creator through his breath.” (sic).

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The plaintiff, identified as Benjamin Dean Crosland of Pinedale, asserts in the affidavit that he is a “living man retaining all of my God given rights, including sole possession and sole use of all my biological materials which are granted to me by my creator” and “retains the right to decline all attempts to access, influence,and or otherwise alter any and all of my God given biological material and or biological systems which are unique, flawless and original design and craftmanship of my creator and of which my Creator has granted me sole possession, proprietorship and full use of.” (sic)

Crosland makes several other declarations in the affidavit including that the State of Wyoming, health agents, and associated assignees could not compel Crosland for non-medically indicated testing or treatment. He also declares that he believes that asking for information regarding his current medical condition by another party would be a violation of both The 4th Amendment and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

While the affidavit does indicate that Crosland’s former employer had stated that vaccines were safe and effective and claimed that the company attempted to incentivize him to get vaccinated. The July 28 affidavit does not, however, outline any specific allegations of intimidation or harassment and does not include any claims for relief.

A cover sheet filed with the original affidavit on July 28 does show an amount in controversy of $100,000,000. The details for that amount were not part of the original filing.

The July 28 filing was met with a motion to dismiss the case outright, from Casper-based attorney Tim Stubson who is representing the defendant in the case, identified in the original filing from Crosland as “Enterprise Products Partners, L.P. ” In the motion to dismiss, attorneys state that Crosland’s affidavit does not offer any official complaint.

“Plaintiff does not identify any claims against Defendant does not identify any action by his employer which violated his rights, nor does he request any relief within his pleadings,” (sic) Defense attorneys wrote in the motion to dismiss.

Defense attorneys further allege that a filed “Affidavit to Allow Service by Registered or Certified Mail” was filled out by Crosland incorrectly, and indicated that a summons be sent to the Defendant via “restricted delivery,” but lists the Plaintiff’s own mailing address as that of the Defendant. It is also alleged that both this affidavit and a second one were requesting service by certified mail claiming that the Defendant had no local representation.

The request for dismissal sites arguments that Crosland failed to make a proper claim, failed to properly process a required summons to the Defendant, and that he did not properly serve paperwork in the case. Attorneys say that Crosland hand delivered documents to an administrative assistant at Enterprise Products Operating, LLC in Pindedale.

Enterprise Products Operating, LLC is not named in the original affidavit.

An affidavit filed by the defense quotes an employee of Enterprise Products Operating, LLC who notes that the named defendant in Crosland’s affidavit was “Enterprise Products Partners L.P.,” which they identified as a publicly traded limited partnership with no employees. It was further stated that Crosland was never an employee of Enterprise Products Partners L.P.

“Enterprise Products Partners L.P. conducts operations in Wyoming Through Enterprise Products Operating LLC and its consolidated subsidiaries (collectively, ‘EPOLLC’)” the employee’s statement said. They further claimed that Crosland did not deliver the packet for service of process to the registered agent for either EPOLLC or Enterprise Products Company.

“It is significant to note that Plaintiff’s filings before this court name the wrong party,” the defense motion for dismissal says. “At the time of this filing, Plaintiff’s employer was Enterprise Products Company and he performed work for EPOLLC in Wyoming.”

A subsequent filing from Crosland on September 7, 2021 does name Enterprise Products Company as the Defendant/Respondent. It also addresses issues raised in the motion to dismiss, by outlining specific complaints and details the amount for relief sought in the case.

In the September 7 filing, labeled “complaint,” Crosland alleges a count of Wrongful Termination, a count of Reckless Endangering, a count of Wage Discrimination, and a count alleging violation of federally protected activities.

With each count Crosland is seeking the equivalent of a year of lost wages and benefits through his potential retirement age of 72. Each charge claims $3,000,000 dollars, for a total of $12,000,000 in relief. The number is significantly less than the $100,000,000 amount identified as being contested in the cover sheet for the original filing.

In the count alleging that Enterprise Products Company violated a federally protected activity, the Plaintiff claims that the Defendant did not grant Crosland a religious exemption for not wearing a mask and for requiring vaccinations, leading to a loss of driving privileges for company vehicles.

The count of wrongful termination alleges that the Plaintiff claimed that the defendant maintains different policies for vaccinated employees and unvaccinated employees, including Paid Time Off for vaccinated employees that was not provided to unvaccinated employees.

In the reckless endangerment count, the complaint says that wearing masks put the Plaintiff below healthy oxygen levels and above unhealthy CO2 levels. Crosland further claimed that he had been trained to test for such levels.

In the count of wage discrimination, it was alleged that Crosland had notified the company of the lawsuit and was subsequently terminated because of the lawsuit on August 5, 2021. Crosland says that supervision at the company was not disciplining other non-vaccinated employees that were not wearing masks.

The case is currently awaiting a motion hearing in Sublette County District Court, where the Defense’s request for dismissal of the case will be argued and considered. The hearing is scheduled for mid-October.

All persons named in civil complaints are presumed innocent unless otherwise found in a court of law. Charges and complaints are subject to change following official filings from the from the involved parties.

The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 case, variant, death, testing, hospital and vaccine data online. The department also shares information about how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19 safety recommendations are available from the CDC.