Ikea Sued By Worker Fired for Posting Anti-Gay Bible Quotes, Attacking 'Promotion of Homosexuality'

Ikea is being sued by a former employee who claims he was fired for refusing to take down anti-gay comments from the company's intranet.

On May 16, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, the Swedish furniture maker posted an article on its internal website, underscoring support for the LGBT community. The post also encouraged employees to ask customers what pronoun they preferred and engage in conversations with LGBT customers about their partners and families.

That didn't sit right with at least one employee in Warsaw, identified only as Tomasz K. He told Polish state broadcaster TVP Info, "I've been hired to sell furniture but I'm a Catholic and these aren't my values."

Ikea
A picture taken on March 27, 2013 shows the sign of Swedish furniture giant Ikea at the Odysseum shopping mall, in Montpellier, southern France. PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images

Tomasz posted a comment to the article, reportedly writing that "acceptance and promotion of homosexuality and other deviations is a source of scandal."

He also included two Bible verses: One, Matthew 18:6, reads, "Woe to him through whom scandals come, it would be better for him to tie a millstone around his neck and plunge him in the depths of the sea."

The other, Leviticus 20:13, decrees, "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them."

Shortly after leaving his comments, Tomasz said he was called in by management and asked to take them down. "I said that I cannot withdraw my words because this is a quote from the Holy Bible," he told TVP Info." As a Catholic I can not censure God."

Not long after, Tomasz was brought back in and told his contract was being terminated. "I was supposed to pack, empty my locker and give them my ID," he said.

Tomasz filed a lawsuit against Ikea last week, alleging religious discrimination and wrongful termination. His case has been taken up by the Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture, an ultra-conservative Polish group opposing LGBT rights and access to abortion. In a statement on the Ordo Iuris website, Tomasz insisted he believed "every man deserves respect."

"My post was a reaction to indoctrination, which I had been subjected to in the workplace for years," he added. "The attitude imposed on IKEA employees on the postulates of the LGBT movement is radically different from the teaching of the Catholic Church flowing from the Holy Scriptures or accept a situation in which the employer forces me to change my worldview."

He said working at IKEA didn't mean he had to "represent the ideology of its owners."

Tomasz denied his comments encouraged violence against homosexuals: "You do not need to be a theologian or a philosopher to realize that the Holy Bible is not read in a literal way, and its text is full of allegories and hyperbole."

But Ikea maintained his post "could affect the rights and dignity of LGBT+ persons."

"[He] used quotes from the Old Testament about death and blood in the context of what fate homosexual people should meet," the company wrote in a statement on its Polish-language website. "Many employees concerned by this entry contacted our HR department."

The Ikea code of conduct prohibits "exclusionary behavior" and discrimination, it added. "Ikea is an open-minded company. Among us are people of various beliefs, including many Catholics. We respect each other, our views and religions. Everyone has the right to be themselves, feel safe and be treated on an equal footing, with respect, like any other employee."

There was no room for "harming people because of their personal characteristics, views or religions." The message ended by saying similar action would have been taken against an employee who attacked Catholic people.

In a followup post on July 4, Ikea said it wouldn't be commenting further on an ongoing legal matter. "As an employer, we're focused mainly on minimizing the negative impact of the entire situation on our employees."

On Saturday, a group of Polish bishops denounced Ikea for letting Tomasz go.

"From the point of view of the law and above all of propriety and common sense, it is unacceptable to attack the IKEA employee who refused LGBT indoctrination in the workplace," the bishops said in a statement. The bishops said Tomasz defended his faith in an "exemplary" way.

According to Bloomberg, IKEA is now being investigated by prosecutors in Poland and members of the ruling Law and Justice Party have suggested a boycott of the company.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro told TVP Info that, if true, the allegations show how foreign companies discriminate against anyone who doesn't share their values. "This is unacceptable," Ziobro said. "It's absolutely scandalous."

"The polish LGBTQ community has many enemies: the government, the prosecutor, the Catholic Church, the state media and the largest trade union, Solidarnosc," Radek Oliwa, publisher of the LGBT newsmagazine Queer.pl, told Newsweek. "It's a shame and alarming that a private company is one of the last institutions that respects the law and values the dignity of non-heterosexual citizens."

Ikea was one of the first mainstream retailers to incorporate LGBT people in its advertising: A gay couple was featured in an commercial from 1994. This year, Ikea flew the Pride flag at locations around the world and sold rainbow-striped shopping bags, with 100 percent of the profits going to support the HRC Foundation and its programs for LGBT youth and families.

IKEA
Ikea sold a rainbow shopping bag during Pride month and donated all proceeds to the HRC Foundation, an LGBT nonprofit. IKEA

"At IKEA, our culture is centered on the value of togetherness," Rafael Fantauzzi, IKEA U.S. Diversity & Inclusion Manager, said of the Pride month campaign. "We believe equality is a fundamental human right and that all homes are created equal."

Companies with inclusive LGBT policies are continuing to see pushback in Poland: Just last month, Volvo's promotion of a LGBT community group at its factory in Warsaw drew ire from workers.

Promos for the group were reportedly posted on computer monitors at the plant. "It was being displayed during every break, workers were looking at it." said Grzegorz Zachara, leader of the Solidarity '80 trade union at Volvo, told TVP Info.

The carmaker has not officially addressed the complaints, but Zachara says the promos were removed.

"We leave our sexuality, our views, at the gate of the factory," he added. "At work we're equal—we've got the same shirts. We don't discuss our sexual preferences, political preferences [or] religious preferences, in order not to introduce additional divisions or conflict."

Ikea Sued By Worker Fired for Posting Anti-Gay Bible Quotes, Attacking 'Promotion of Homosexuality' | World