On Friday, we told you about Vick Tipnes, CEO and founder of Blackstone Medical Services in Tampa, who is being sued by a man named David Bunting. According to the complaint filed by Bunting in federal court, Tipnes pushed him to get involved in Scientology, and threatened him with “financial penalties” if he didn’t comply. Bunting refused, and claims that he was fired as a result.
Before we filed that story, we called Blackstone Medical and asked to speak with Tipnes. We were told he was in a meeting, and we left a message. Tipnes hasn’t called us back. But we did hear from Vick’s attorney, Hunter Chamberlin, who told us that Tipnes vigorously denies the allegations in Bunting’s lawsuit.
Before he filed his lawsuit, Bunting filed a discrimination claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Chamberlin then filed a detailed response, describing Bunting not as a victim of religious discrimination, but as a disgruntled former employee who had failed to live up to expectations. Not only did Tipnes say he had not forced Scientology on Bunting, but his response to the EEOC included affidavits from twelve Blackstone Medical employees who all said Tipnes had never brought up Scientology with them.
We thought it was important for you to see the EEOC response, with its attached affidavits, that Chamberlin sent to us.
“None of the individuals employed at Blackstone have ever been told, asked, or in any way pressured by any Blackstone principal, agent, officer, or any other Blackstone individual to attend any Scientology meetings, services, or any other Scientology events,” the document says. “Simply put, Mr. Bunting was hired and employed as a salesman, and he was not selling.”
The response does acknowledge that Tipnes and Bunting talked about Scientology. According to the document, Bunting confided in his boss that he was having marital difficulties and wanted some guidance. Tipnes responded that he had benefited from Scientology marriage counseling, and took Bunting to the Scientology org in Ybor City to show him around.
“He was simply responding to Mr. Bunting’s request for help by bringing him to the program so he could make his own independent determination as to whether it was something in which he was interested,” the document says. “[At] no time did Mr. Tipnes ever put any pressure on Mr. Bunting one way or the other, or suggest in any way that his decision would have any effect on his employment at Blackstone.”
The document also acknowledges that Bunting complained to his bosses that he felt his job performance was suffering because of the pressure to join Scientology. But Tipnes flatly denies that Bunting had been pressured. In fact, Tipnes says, Bunting was specifically told that they didn’t want him to get involved in Scientology after he claimed that it was hurting his job. After that, they had to let Bunting go not because of his aversion to Scientology, but simply because he didn’t do his job.
“In short, Mr. Bunting’s termination had nothing to do with discrimination, religious or otherwise. It had everything to do with chronic underperformance and falling sales and revenue-generation,” the document says.
As for Bunting’s side of things, we talked briefly with his attorney, Richard Celler, who told us he didn’t think much of the EEOC response. After the EEOC gave Bunting permission, the former employee filed his lawsuit in federal court this week.
“Needless to say, we have two different stories about this case,” Celler says.
Here’s the response filed by Chamberlin on behalf of Tipnes. Please give it and the exhibits a good look, and let us know what you think.
Bonus items from our tipsters
You mean Trump has even lost the Scientology vote? Oh, he’s in worse shape than we thought.
Hey, girl. Let’s take the Flag bridge to infinity.
Salvation Army gold!
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield