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Former Pasadena Symphony Music Director Sues for Religious Discrimination

Published on Monday, January 30, 2023 | 5:42 am

Pasadena Symphony Music Director David Lockington [Pasadena Symphony and POPS]
A former music director for the Pasadena Symphony Association who is a member of Church of Christ, Scientist, is suing the association, alleging he was wrongfully stripped of his job in 2021 for seeking a religious and medical exemption to its mandatory coronavirus vaccination policy.

David Lockington’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges wrongful termination, religious discrimination, harassment, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment and various state Labor Code violations. Lockington seeks unspecified damages along with a court order directing that he be reinstated and given the proper religious accommodations.

A symphony association representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit brought Wednesday.

Lockington, 61, has a 35-year conducting career and previously was the music director for the Modesto Symphony, New Mexico Symphony Orchestra and Grand Rapids Symphony in Michigan, the suit states. He took the Grand Rapids orchestra to Carnegie Hall and produced five recordings, including “Invention & Alchemy,” which was nominated for a Grammy, according to the suit.

Lockington was hired by the Pasadena Symphony Association in 2013 and his tenure as music director “was characterized by consistent artistic success, which the defendants were happy to proclaim,” the suit states.

Lockington’s position was a salaried, management position, essentially equal with that of CEO, the suit states.

During the fall of 2020, while pandemic restrictions were in place both nationally and locally, Lockington was required to travel monthly from his Indiana home to California for work-related activities, including meeting with potential donors for lunches and receptions, during which time Lockington was regularly tested, wore a mask and practiced social distancing, the suit states.

In May 2021, Pasadena Symphony Chief Executive Officer at Pasadena Symphony and POPS Lora Unger sent Lockington an email stating that all Pasadena Symphony Association employees were being required to have a coronavirus vaccination and an association attorney later stated that his request for a religious and medical exemption was invalid because he was an independent contractor and not an employee, the suit states.

“Subsequently, defendants terminated and/or constructively terminated Lockington’s employment, thereby also breaching his employment contract, and violating his rights under the Fair Employment and Housing Act,” the suit alleges.

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