Bob Eschliman has worked in the newspaper industry since 1998. Over his career, he had received almost 70 awards for writing and editing, and seven of those awards were won at his most recent job as Editor-in-Chief of the Newton Daily News.
Eschliman operated a personal blog for many years. When the Newton Daily News hired him, he made his employers aware of his blog. He was never asked to stop using his personal blog, and there was no policy preventing private blogging. So, he continued to blog. He had very few followers.
His employer encouraged its employees to be active on their individual social media accounts, which is by definition a personal expression of speech. In addition, there are other employees of Newton Daily News who operated private blogs who still retain their jobs with Shaw Media, the company that owns the newspaper.
On April 28, 2014, Eschliman wrote a blog post in which he defended and explained his sincerely held theological beliefs regarding Scripture and the definition of marriage according to the Bible. The beliefs Eschliman expressed were strictly personal and not in any way affiliated with Shaw Media or the newspaper. Eschliman felt strongly that he should share his personal religious beliefs with the small number of people who followed his blog.
Two days later, on April 30, 2014, Eschliman’s boss informed him that he would be placed on an “indefinite paid suspension” so that the company could investigate his recent blog post. He was instructed to have no contact with any other members of the company or the media.
Eschliman was fired on May 5, 2014, without being given a reason for his termination and ordered to surrender his corporate effects and leave the building immediately. He was not even allowed to return to his office in order to gather his personal belongings.
At the meeting in which he was terminated, Eschliman was presented with a severance agreement. He was pressed to sign it, but he chose not to do so because he was concerned about losing his civil rights if he did.
The next day, on May 6, 2014, John Rung, the president of Shaw Media and owner of Newton Daily News, published an editorial titled “Earning public trust our priority.” In the editorial, Rung explained that Eschliman had been fired because of his blog post.Rung said that while Eschliman “is entitled to his opinion, his public airing of it compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it.” Rung wrote later in the editorial that “[Mr. Eschliman] has a right to voice his opinion. And we have a right to select an editor who we believe best represents our company and best serves the interests of our readers.”
On July 23, 2014, First Liberty—and its volunteer attorney team, including Matthew Whitaker, a former United States Attorney and partner in the Des Moines law firm of Whitaker, Hagenow, & Gustoff, LLP—filed an official charge of discrimination on Eschliman’s behalf with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The complaint prompted the EEOC to begin an independent investigation of Eschliman’s charges of religious discrimination and retaliation.
On July 27, 2015, First Liberty announced that Eschliman and Shaw Media amicably resolved the dispute with a confidential settlement agreement.
Eschliman released the following statement upon the resolution of the matter without resorting to litigation: “My family and I are pleased that we have been able to resolve this matter with Shaw Media in a way that is beneficial to all parties involved. We are thankful for the very positive resolution to this situation.”
Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for First Liberty, said, “Shaw Media showed true leadership in respecting free speech and religious liberty in the resolution to this matter. Our client is very happy with the outcome and appreciates the manner in which Shaw Media resolved this dispute. Religious liberty in the workplace is an important issue in our nation today. Companies who find themselves in similar situations should follow Shaw Media’s good example in resolving these situations in an amicable manner.”
For Immediate Release: July 27, 2015
Contact: Gregg Wooding, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cell: 214.558.9455, Office 972.941.4453
SHAW MEDIA HONORS THE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY OF BOB ESCHLIMAN AS BOTH SIDES SETTLE DISPUTE
NEWTON, IA, July 27, 2015— Today, Liberty Institute announced that their client, Bob Eschliman, and Shaw Media amicably resolved an employment dispute with a confidential settlement agreement. The settlement follows Eschliman’s termination from the Newton Daily News over a year ago.
Bob Eschliman released the following statement upon the resolution of this matter without resorting to litigation: “My family and I are pleased that we have been able to resolve this matter with Shaw Media in a way that is beneficial to all parties involved. We are thankful for the very positive resolution to this situation.”
Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for Liberty Institute and attorney for Eschliman said “Shaw Media showed true leadership in respecting free speech and religious liberty in the resolution to this matter. Our client is very happy with the outcome and appreciates the manner in which Shaw Media resolved this dispute. Religious liberty in the workplace is an important issue in our nation today. Companies who find themselves in similar situations should follow Shaw Media’s good example in resolving these situations in an amicable manner.”
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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to restoring and defending religious liberty across America – in our schools, for our churches, and throughout the public arena. Liberty Institute’s vision is to reestablish liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s founders. Visit www.LibertyInstitute.org for more information.
To download this press release, please click here.
First Liberty Press Release – 07/23/14
04/16/15 – Eschliman’s Second Response to the EEOC
03/16/15 – Eschliman’s Response to Shaw Media’s Statement to EEOC