Rod Keller takes a look at a new legal fight over an employer allegedly forcing an employee to submit to Scientology courses…
The Underground Bunker has reported on numerous cases of employers getting into hot water over forcing Scientology on their employees, including dentists and chiropractors. But this week, we’re taking a look at a dispute between an Ohio engineer and the owners of an Indiana consulting company.
Until December, Paul Wysong and his wife Chelsea were employed at Continental Design Company, an Indiana company where Paul was an engineer specializing in quality control and manufacturing. While they worked for Continental, the Wysongs lived in California to be near the Tesla automobile factory in Fremont, a major Continental client that Wysong had brought in.
Paul had gone to work for Continental in 2013 with a salary of $80,000 plus commissions and bonuses to run its “Quality Division.” He’d been hired by the company’s president and CEO, Judy Nagengast, and her husband Bill, the company’s COO. The Nagengasts are Scientologists and they run their company according to the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
On December 23 Wysong had his attorney send the Nagengasts a letter, asking them to resolve a dispute over commissions, and alleged that a hostile work environment existed because the couple introduced Scientology courses and training to their non-Scientologist employees. On December 29 the company retaliated by firing the Wysongs as well as Paul’s best friend. Because of the dispute the Wysongs have lost the use of the company car and had to leave their home, also rented for them by the company.
Scientology companies like Continental are members of the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises, or WISE, and are expected to organize their business according to the same seven-division “org board” that Scientology churches — called “orgs” use. Scientology is involved in almost every aspect of these businesses, and employees are subject to the policies of L. Ron Hubbard even if they aren’t Scientologists themselves. “You don’t even have to join the thing to be affected by it,” Wysong says.
We asked Wysong what it meant that he was subjected to Scientology practices. “They made me take an IQ/Personality test. I found it interesting, the areas of my life that might need improvement. They give it to every employee, and make hiring decisions based on the test. I found out later you are allowed to give candidate employees tests, but only if it’s related to skills they’re being hired for.” The personality test is the same Oxford Capacity Analysis test given out by Scientology recruiters around the world. It is composed of 200 yes/no/maybe questions about railway timetables, prison systems and voting preferences. It is not related to Oxford University or any other Oxford organization and is not recognized as useful outside of Scientology.
Wysong says that Scientology-based materials are regularly distributed by the Nagengasts to employees, even at the company Christmas party. “They said I needed a training session on the Hubbard Management System. She [Judy Nagengast] gave me Scientology books at the company Christmas party. How to find suppressive people and how to read people on the tone scale.” (Hubbard taught that 2.5 percent of all people are suppressive, and that being connected to suppressives can affect your life negatively. The Emotional Tone Scale assigns numeric values to human emotions according to their desirability.)
“If they knew somebody is a hard-core Christian then they didn’t approach them with anything about Scientology. They might leave a pamphlet on their desk before they arrive at work, but that’s all,” Paul says. The Wysongs consider themselves Christians, but not as dedicated as some of the other employees at Continental.
Identification of suppressive people was important at Continental. “She audited me in her office, and made me write a list of suppressive people in my life, and had me write ‘handle’ or ‘disconnect’ next to each one. One of them was my father [Butch Wysong] who passed away three years ago. She labeled him a Suppressive Person, and told me I shouldn’t visit his grave as my connection to him was affecting my statistics.” Another Suppressive Person identified in the session was Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk. “I was just listing names so she’d leave me alone,” Wysong says.
“There were 30-35 people on the list, about 80 percent are family members. My mother-in-law was on the list, also a cousin and her husband. A few were Tesla workers or co-workers at Continental. I never disconnected from anybody, I’m a pretty strong willed person, but at one point I was just telling her anything to get the session done.”
Disconnection from family members is shocking to non-Scientologists, but it is a familiar part of life for many members of the church. Andrea Gianetti Russo is Bill Nagengast’s daughter and Judy’s step-daughter. The couple disconnected from her 16 years ago when she “blew” from the Cincinnati, Ohio org staff. “I was working from 8am to 11pm every day with no time off,” she says. “I was absolutely miserable. I literally had to lie to escape…I called my father when I left and he told me that I had to go back and route off and I said absolutely not. He has three beautiful grandchildren that he has never seen, although I do send him photos and cards.”
Like Paul Wysong, Andrea was told to disconnect from the dead. “My mom left the church when I was 10, and she died when I was 18. I had to write a disconnection letter to my deceased mother.”
On more than 20 occasions Wysong was asked to go for Scientology training at a Hubbard College of Administration, or HCA. He refused every time. “They scheduled me for two weeks in Los Angeles for 40 hours a week. Then they said if we can’t get you to LA because of the cost, we can get you go to Clearwater, then they were talking about sending me on a cruise ship. Now after doing some research I know that was the Freewinds. They said it was a visit to an island, and I thought that might be nice, but now I’m glad I never went on that cruise.”
As a substitute for HCA training Judy Nagengast delivered some of the courses personally in her office in Indiana. “She would leave the room and make me read a chapter, then she would come back and give me a quiz about it. That went on for about six hours.” (HCA courses drill a student on the Organization Executive Course, a series of policies better known as the “green volumes” written by L. Ron Hubbard and considered part of the scriptures of the Church of Scientology.)
But it was not only involvement in Scientology that brought Paul into conflict with Continental, it was also money. Wysong’s complaint says that the company breached his employment contract in some cases by paying commission on net receipts of the division instead of the gross, and in other cases withholding payment entirely. “She [Judy] kept asking me ‘Oh how dare you ask for that’ like I was the one to blame. They were big on trying to use guilt, saying ‘Do you know what I’m going through?’ I was just asking for what I deserve, what the contract called for, and that’s what I want.” For insisting on being paid his commission, Paul says he was assigned to the Scientology condition of “danger.” In Scientology scripture this is one of the lower conditions of existence, and should be assigned when:
An Emergency Condition has continued too long.
A statistic plunges downward very steeply.
A senior executive suddenly finds himself or herself wearing the hat of the head of the activity because it is in trouble.
An Indiana newspaper, the Herald Bulletin, found Wysong’s complaint and interviewed Judy Nagengast about the case.
“Everything in this lawsuit is totally false,” Nagengast said, characterizing Wysong as a disgruntled employee who “did a lousy job.”
“I don’t care about what anybody’s religion is,” she said.
Nagengast, meanwhile, said she is planning to file a countersuit against Wysong.
Judy Nagengast has followed up on her plan, and Continental has sued Wysong, alleging breach of contract and confidentiality agreements, libel, negligence and other causes of action. Because Continental’s complaint was filed in Indiana, where the Nagengasts live, it is not a countersuit to Wysong’s Ohio lawsuit, and so the Wysongs have to hire lawyers in both states. This increases their costs at the same time that their family income has been cut dramatically. They have established a Gofundme page to raise money for their legal expenses.
We asked attorney and Underground Bunker webmaster Scott Pilutik his opinion of the Continental filing against Wysong. “It comes off as extremely thin. I have no way to know how accurate any of the allegations are but I don’t see how they can show damages. I imagine a judge rolling his or her eyes at all of this.”
One of the requests for relief filed by Continental is for an injunction preventing the Wysongs from picketing the company’s headquarters. There have been masked picketers outside Continental, but their identity remains a mystery.
When we asked Wysong directly if he and his wife were the ones picketing the business, he sent us this statement: “I will neither confirm nor deny my role in the protest. I’ve seen the photos provided by Continental and I’m unable to determine who the masked individuals are, but I know I’m not the only person they have made take their ‘courses’.”
— Rod Keller
We’ve embedded Wysong’s lawsuit against Judy Nagengast and Continental’s suit against Wysong here…
Phil and Willie Jones at the dedication of their billboard
The weather let up long enough yesterday for the billboard dedication to go off without a hitch. Here’s video of Phil and Willie talking about Scientology disconnection on Sunset Boulevard taken by Andrew Cramer…
HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.
Scientology disconnection, a reminder
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Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
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