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NEWPORT (WATE) -- A Cocke County woman says she was fired just days before Christmas because of the way she was spreading Christmas cheer.
Kristie Sutton, a former Lowe's Home Improvement store employee, says it was all because of a pin she wore to work.
"It's called Christmas, for Christ's sake," the pin says.
When Sutton admired the pin being worn by a customer, the stranger gave it to her. Neither knew its message would mean trouble for the cashier.
"I wore it for a couple of weeks before one of the employees came and said to me, 'I need to ask you to take your pin off,'" Sutton explained.
Sutton says she didn't remove it immediately. Instead, she pleaded her case to the human resources manager.
"I asked him why they could sell Christmas products, sell nativity scenes," she said, "but I couldn't wear a Christian pin?"
Sutton says she was told because of store policy, no one would be allowed to wear a pin supporting a religion.
When Sutton returned from lunch that day, she says, she was fired. "The operations manager called me in his office and said, 'We don't need you to stay. You don't have to work out a notice, we just need you to go."
Sutton admits she was already looking for another job and had planned to put in a two weeks' notice after Christmas. But she says she's upset about missing her holiday pay.
She's also saddened by the message her firing gives. "What's so offensive about God? What's so offensive about the word Jesus? What makes us so afraid to let people say that?"
Though Lowe's won't explain why Sutton was fired, several employees told 6 News they believe she was fired because of the pin. They expressed support of her, but they didn't want to go on camera for fear of losing their jobs.
In response, Lowe's public relations executive Karen Cobb released a statement to 6 News, saying:
"Personnel matters are confidential, so we're unable to share any information; however, Lowe's follows all federal, state and local laws governing employment including laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion."
Lowe's also says its employees may wish customers Merry Christmas if they like.