PERTH AMBOY - A Garden State Parkway toll taker who says she was told to stop saying "God bless you" to drivers has filed a lawsuit against the Turnpike Authority.
Cynthia Fernandez is taking the agency to court. The former temporary toll taker says her freedom of speech and religion were violated when her supervisor told her to stop saying the phrase to customers before they drove away.
"I feel like I'm taking a stand for God," Fernandez says. "Maybe I'm the one who can bring him back, that it's OK to say 'God bless.'"
The mother of three from Perth Amboy quit her job in part because she says her employer silenced her. She also wanted a set schedule.
"By saying 'God bless you,' she's expressing herself as a Christian," says her lawyer Greg Noble. "And if an employer is going to restrain her ability to express herself in that way, not say something based on her religious belief, not disrupting the workplace, that's our concern."
Tom Feeney, a spokesperson for the Turnpike Authority, wouldn't comment about the lawsuit specifically but says Fernandez resigned because she couldn't get steady hours. He says, "She said nothing to the area manager about the alleged incident involving the plaza supervisor, and she didn't mention it in her resignation letter."
Fernandez is seeking full back pay with benefits as well as a cash settlement. Her lawsuit alleges she suffered physical and bodily injuries, humiliation, psychological harm and lost employment opportunities.