Pacific Justice Institute represents SFC Boots Hawks (U.S. Army, Ret.), who served twenty years in the military and now works in the Quality Management office at Dameron Hospital in Stockton, where he has been recognized with such distinctions as Employee of the Year. In November, 2013, SFC Hawks was told by a supervisor to remove the phrase “God Bless America” as one of three quotes in his e-mail signature block. A supervisor was concerned that someone might be offended by the phrase and suggested it was equivalent to an employee saying, “Death to Christians.”
SFC Hawks complied with the directive but was placed on two days’ leave for “insubordination” when he said he wanted to seek legal counsel. As a result, SFC Hawks spent Veterans’ Day suspended from his job and worried about his future, instead of being honored for his distinguished military service.
After receiving a letter from PJI Staff Attorney Matthew McReynolds, the hospital withdrew the charge of insubordination and changed the two days' leave to paid leave. The hospital nevertheless continued to insist that SFC Hawks not say, “God Bless America.”
After PJI attorneys obtained and served the hospital with right-to-sue notices from the federal and state agencies that oversee workplace discrimination complaints, the hospital informed employees in March that it had instituted a new policy that a standardized signature block must be used by all employees, without deviation.
The president of Pacific Justice Institute, Brad Dacus, had the following comment on the new developments: “It is astounding that Dameron Hospital believes it should respond to charges of illegal discrimination and censorship with even more censorship. They apparently still believe that 'God Bless America' should be banned, and they are willing to institute new regulations muzzling all employees in order to accomplish that goal. To date, the hospital has never apologized to Sgt. Hawks for suspending him over Veterans’ Day weekend, and it has apparently learned nothing from its inept handling of this incident."
Dacus further noted that PJI attorneys will be monitoring implementation of the new policy for any discrepancies in enforcement and will be keeping all legal options open.