Here's a classic case of "He said, she said." A former New Jersey toll collector is suing her former employer over what she's calling a violation of her First Amendment rights.
CYNTHIA FERNANDEZ VIA WCBS: "He told me he wanted to talk to me, that I couldn't say 'God bless you' anymore to customers because somebody might get offended."
Cynthia Fernandez says she was just being polite when she told drivers "God bless you." Here's how her attorney views it:
ATTORNEY GREG NOBLE VIA NEWS 12 NEW JERSEY: "Ms. Fernandez had a right to say that, and any effort by the employer to prevent that violates her constitutional rights."
Fernandez wants back pay and a cash settlement, but there is, of course, another side to this story.
First off, NJ.com talked to turnpike authority spokesman Tom Feeney, who says Fernandez's resignation letter mentioned nothing of the alleged "God bless you" incident.
In fact, Feeney says, Fernandez had gone to her supervisor asking for more hours and didn't get them, and that's at least in part why she quit. To be clear — Fernandez isn't disputing that played a role but is emphasizing the "God bless you" incident as a major reason for leaving the job.
According to the White House's guidelines on religious exercise, federal employees may engage in religious expression in the workplace as long as it doesn't impair public service, resemble official endorsement or intrude upon other employees' rights.
But Fernandez was a state worker — and the New Jersey Turnpike Authority has no policy against religious expression. But again, the agency disputes the incident as a reason Fernandez quit. The former toll collector is now babysitting. Her lawsuit alleges humiliation and psychological harm.