CBSN

Cult-like “Onionhead” program on Long Island forced to trial

NEW YORK - A federal judge in New York City has ruled that a Long Island firm that provides discount medical plans must face a discrimination trial after workers said they were forced to pray, chant and participate in spiritual interpersonal workshops.

Newsday reported Tuesday that the Brooklyn judge ruled United Health Programs of America in Syosset must face charges from workers who said they were fired because they didn’t participate.

The judge says the program, known as “Onionhead,” used an approach that amounted to a religion.

The judge says workers described a cult-like environment with religious ceremonies that included burning incense to cleanse the workplace and dimming lights to prevent demons from entering.

An attorney for the firm says there’s no proof workers were required to participate in Onionhead activities.

CBS New York reports the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit in 2014 against United Health Programs of America and its parent company, Cost Containment Group.

Employees who objected to the program were disciplined or terminated, according to EEOC.

The agency is urging a judge to stop the firm’s alleged practices and ensure employees receive back pay and other compensation.