The online news is abuzz with discussions about the EEOC’s latest lawsuit against United Health Program Services based in Syosset, New York. According to the complaint, United Health forced its employees to engage in various activities such as holding hands, praying, burning candles and telling co-workers “I love you.”
I must admit that I had never heard of the Onionhead religion before reading about this lawsuit. For those of you similarly uninformed, Onionhead was started by a mother-daughter duo about 20 years ago. According to the Harnessing Happiness Foundation, which is the official name of the organization spouting the virtues of Onionhead:
“It is not what is Onionhead – it is who is Onionhead? Onionhead is this incredibly pure, wise and adorable character who teaches us how to name it – claim it – tame it – aim it. Onion spelled backwards is ‘no-i-no’. He wants everyone to know how they feel and then know what to do with those feelings. He helps us direct our emotions in a truthful and compassionate way. Which in turn assists us to communicate more appropriately and peacefully. In turn, we then approach life from a place of our wellness rather than a place of our wounds.
His motto is: peel it – feel it – heal it “
Still confused? So am I, but I don’t really need to dig deeper (pun intended) for the purposes of this post.
Interestingly, for all those in the blogosphere calling Onionhead a cult, not a religion, Denali Jordan, who is at the heart of the employees’ complaints and is the company’s leader of the company’s Onionhead practices, told the NY Daily News that Onionhead is not a religion.
If that is what Ms. Jordan and the company believe, then I must ask “what the heck were you thinking?” Although it should be obvious by now that an employer cannot force its religious beliefs on employees (see our May 10, 2013 post about an employer forcing Scientology on its employees), at least in that case I can understand the employer’s misguided motivation. Without that motivation, I am at a loss for why it is good idea to force employees to share their innermost feelings and routinely declare their love for their co-workers. In a different case, I could see how these facts would be the start of a sexual harassment complaint.
If Onionhead is in fact viewed as a religion by its adherents, I guess it is a religion that is not concerned with honesty. Before any Onionheads contact us outraged, I am simply making the observation, based on years of my own work experience and of counseling employers about workplace problems, not all employees love each other. Maybe it’s more accurate in some circumstances to make employees say “I tolerate you because the law will not let me hit you and I need a paycheck.”