Another lawsuit against an employer accused of forcing Scientology on an employee was filed this week, this time involving a Florida man who alleges that the CEO of a Tampa medical company harassed him and ultimately fired him because he wouldn’t subject himself to Scientology courses.
We’ve seen this kind of thing numerous times in recent years, including a dentist in Oregon, a chiropractor in Florida, and a plastics company in Pasadena. This time, the employer is a man named Vick Tipnes who maintains a somewhat eye-opening page about himself at his company’s website. Tipnes writes that he was born in London but moved to Florida as a child, and then worked as a car salesman as he looked for business opportunities.
In 2012, he founded Blackstone Medical Services, which tests patients and sells equipment for sleep apnea. Since then, he’s been celebrated by local publications as a successful entrepreneur, and writes about his success with blog items at the LinkedIn website, posts inspirational photos of himself to his Instagram account, and appears to be a fan of Scientology entrepreneur Grant Cardone.
In June 2014, Hillsborough County resident David Bunting went to work at Blackstone Medical as a “physician sleep advisor.” By that December, he alleges, Tipnes began bugging him about getting into Scientology.
“Mr. Tipnes was apparently a member of the Scientology cult and wanted to indoctrinate Mr. Bunting into it as well,” writes Bunting’s attorney, Noah Storch. Bunting wasn’t interested, and declined his boss’s suggestion. By February 2015, however, Tipnes was complaining about Bunting’s low “call volume,” but then admitted that what really bothered him was that Bunting hadn’t agreed to start Scientology courses.
Mr. Bunting objected that he already had a religion and was not looking for a new one, and that in any event, he took no major life decisions such as attending a new Church without discussing the matter with his wife, lightly. Enraged, Mr. Tipnes told Mr. Bunting, “this should be your decision, not your wife’s.”
That May, Bunting complained, he was lured to a breakfast with Tipnes where he was assured Scientology wouldn’t be discussed, only to be hit with another hard sell about taking courses.
Over the next two months, Bunting says he was forced to participate in Scientology exercises at his workplace, and then in August was told he had to take a Scientology sales program that he was “contractually bound to do if he wanted to avoid financial penalties.” Bunting objected to the program, which would have had him proselytizing Scientology to customers. Tipnes also wanted Bunting to approach his wife about getting involved in Scientology.
Finally, on September 1, 2015 Bunting was fired because of his objections to Scientology, he alleges. He then complained to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which gave him a notice of right to sue Blackstone Medical.
Bunting is suing for religious harassment and retaliation, and is requesting a jury trial.
We left messages yesterday for both Bunting’s attorney, Storch, as well as for Vick Tipnes. We’ll let you know what we hear back from them.
Here’s the complaint…
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