For four years, Nelli Parisenkova had been employed with the Bright Horizons Children’s Center in Studio City, California, caring for young children ages 1 to 5, when one day last April she was suddenly berated by the facility’s director, suspended from her duties and escorted out of the building in 96-degree heat for the offense of asking that she not be forced to read books to children that contained same-sex relationships and marriage themes.
Ms. Parisenkova, a devout Christian, had been allowed an informal accommodation of her religious beliefs about marriage by her then-supervisor, also a Christian. The director, however, was a different story when she found out about it.
After being suspended and summarily escorted out of the building by security, Parisenkova formally asked for a religious accommodation so that if she were allowed to return to work, she wouldn’t have to read the books that violated her deeply held beliefs.
Her request was denied, and she was terminated.
With the help of attorneys from the Thomas More Society, Ms. Parisenkova is fighting back. She is suing Bright Horizons and its director, Katy Callas, for violating California’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of religion.
“Make sure you know what books are on the shelf in your children’s care programs and schools. This is a clear-cut case of one of the largest childcare employers in the country having anti-religious workplace policies that promote indoctrination of young children with the LGBT agenda,” attorney Paul Jonna, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Thomas More Society Special Counsel, said in a press release announcing the lawsuit.
Jonna summarized the ill treatment that Parisenkova suffered at the hands of her employer.
“Callas, who is lesbian, apparently took personal offense at Nelli Parisenkova’s religious beliefs and enforced Bright Horizons anti-religious ‘diversity and inclusion’ workplace policies,” explained Jonna. “Callas called Nelli into her office, questioned her in an irate manner, told her that if she did not want to celebrate diversity this was not the place for her to work, gave her an administrative leave memo, escorted her outside with a security guard, and left her out in the 96-degree heat with no transportation.
“As a result, Nelli was forced to walk 20 minutes in the heat and wait 45 minutes for transportation and suffered heat exhaustion for the next two days. She was afraid to return to work.”
The details of the lawsuit reveal the LGBT agenda of the facility with regard to indoctrinating young children.
“On or around April 7, 2022, Ms. Parisenkova was performing her normal childcare duties, but was feeling a lot of pressure to read the books promoting same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting to the children,” the Complaint filed in a California Superior Court explains. “It was reaching in excess of 96 degrees outside, so the children could not go outside, and there were only 12 children’s books available, five of which contained such content. Due to the limited selection of books and lack of outside activities available, Ms. Parisenkova was feeling pressured to read the books.” (emphasis added).
It was only when Ms. Parisenkova sought help from another childcare worker with regard to removing the offensive books for the rest of the day that her director, Ms. Callas, found out about Parisenkova’s religious objections to the materials and the situation deteriorated rapidly.
The facility flatly rejected Parisenkova’s suggested accommodation that would involve other childcare workers reading the books to the children while she picked up their duties temporarily.
Bright Horizons is the largest child-care provider company in the United States, with more than 700 locations. It also has 300 international locations.
“This is an outrageous example of religious discrimination,” added Jonna. “Nelli Parisenkova had been operating under the radar with an informal accommodation request for multiple years without notice. As soon as upper-level management discovered her religious beliefs and received her formal accommodation request, Bright Horizons leveled the full force of the company’s anti-religious and ironically ‘un-inclusive’ diversity policy against Ms. Parisenkova.
“They tried to get her to quit through harassment and intimidation. When she couldn’t return to work because they denied her accommodation request, they fired her. You can’t get much more discriminatory than that. It’s unethical and it’s blatantly illegal.”
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