Was Florida Woman Fired For Saying "Merry Christmas"?

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) -- A Christian woman claims she was fired from her job because she greeted callers with "Merry Christmas," but the vacation rental company says it's no Scrooge and the woman is just a disgruntled employee.

Tonia Thomas, 35, said she refused to say "Happy Holidays" and was fired, even after offering to use the company's non-holiday greeting. The Panama City woman filed a federal complaint that accuses the company of religious discrimination. She is seeking compensation for lost wages.

"I hold my core Christian values to a high standard and I absolutely refuse to give in on the basis of values. All I wanted was to be able to say 'Merry Christmas' or to acknowledge no holidays," she said Tuesday. "As a Christian, I don't recognize any other holidays."

Thomas said she is Baptist.

Her former employer, Counts-Oakes Resorts Properties Inc., said she wasn't fired for saying "Merry Christmas," but would not elaborate.

"We are a Christian company and we celebrate Christmas," said Andy Phillips, the company's president. Thomas is "a disgruntled employee," presenting a one-sided version of what happened when she was fired Dec. 10, Phillips said.

Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based legal group that advocates for people discriminated against because of their religion, is representing Thomas before the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. Their complaint also accuses the company of harassing and taunting Thomas after she was fired by calling the police to watch her pack her belongs and leave.

Thomas could have hard time winning the case, said G. Thomas Harper, a Jacksonville-based labor attorney who writes a newsletter on Florida employment law.

"I wouldn't think an employee has the right to insist (on saying Merry Christmas) unless that really is a tenet of their faith. She would have to make a strong case that was part of her beliefs, if not, it becomes insubordination," he said.

Thomas has found another job, but she makes less than the $10.50 an hour she earned with the rental company. She said the trauma of being fired and the pay cut has made for a tough holiday season for herself, her husband and their 6-year-old son.

Harper said when it comes to holiday greetings, the smartest choice might be ignoring the season.

"The best option is just not to say anything," he said.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Dec 30, 2008 at 05:58 AM
    After reading the many posts here, there seems to be some discontent in what she did, stick by her convictions. Well, I do and will continue. Matt, you are following what I have been doing for years not. If you want happy holidays as your greeting, fine, I just don't chose to shop there. If you have Merry Christmas or Xmas in the window, in I go. If you think political correctness is more important than Christian birth of Christ, well, see ya, not shopping at your place. I noticed many buisnesses in Washington had Merry Christmas and not the other. I guess they know that we, in our small town, do talk. I often are "offended" by stores that do not wish me a Merry Christmas. So, there is your political correctness.
  • by Matt Location: NC on Dec 28, 2008 at 05:58 PM
    This is sooo simple. Don't shop where employee's can't say "Merry CHRISTmas"! I don't.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 27, 2008 at 02:28 PM
    Their could be a few union reps available after the auto industry tanks...
  • by Lenny Location: Chocowinity,NC on Dec 27, 2008 at 07:45 AM
    Hi Mr. T -- The company could be Socialist Southern Confederate Atheists? Maybe she needs Union Represention
  • by Chuck Location: Harrisburg, PA on Dec 27, 2008 at 05:40 AM
    This is ridiculous. I personally will not shop at "Happy Hollidays" stores, but this is completely different. If she wants to say "Merry Christmas" on the phone, she should find another job or start her own company. This is just some lazy person looking for an easy payday.
  • by Buzz Location: Ponzer on Dec 26, 2008 at 08:33 PM
    The "owner" states that they are a Christian company. this be one of thoses cases where we dont really know both sides. Maybe time will tell. Any one that is offended by someone wishing them a merry Christmas has some serious issues. You can wish me what-ever you like, and I'll respect your wishes. Buzz-
  • by MrT Location: LaNC on Dec 26, 2008 at 05:30 PM
    This company is probably owned by a bunch of Commie Yankee atheists.She needs to sue them for everything she can get.
  • by What?? on Dec 26, 2008 at 03:36 PM
    It's always something. Whatever happend to freedom of speech? I understand some of it, some people don't celebrate Christmas. You may offend that particular person. I don't think it's anything wrong with "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetimgs." To each it's own. I just hope that this lady find her another job, or they re-hire her. The economy is really jacked-up.
  • by Keith Location: Greenville on Dec 26, 2008 at 03:11 PM
    She should have the right to say Merry Christmas. I do not greet people Happy Holidays. Its the Christmas Holidays, so I am going to say, Merry Christmas to everyone I see. If someone wants to greet me in another way, they can. I will not get offended.
  • by Ashley Location: Washington on Dec 26, 2008 at 01:49 PM
    Stand up for your rights girls, dont back down one bit, good for you..and Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!
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