Samuel J. Cordes & Associates
866-570-1680 412-567-5444

Religious school not immune from pregnancy discrimination suit

Religious institutions occupy their own special space in employment law. Amidst arguments about freedom of religion and morality clauses in employment contracts, the debate continues over their ability to discriminate against otherwise protected employees. A new lawsuit will be allowed to go forward in challenging a religious school's ability to fire a teacher for various reasons related to her pregnancy.

There are many factual disputes in this case, which is one of the reasons why it will be put before a jury. The woman says that she was fired from her job as a fourth-grade teacher following her admission that she had become pregnant several weeks before her wedding. Her employer gained this information during a meeting about her request for maternity leave. She was wrongfully terminated one week later, and alleges that school administrators told her it was for "disobeying the word of God."

The school says that she was terminated for moral concerns and not for her pregnancy. The appeals court that reviewed the case said that because of the factual disputes, there was still a question about whether or not the school fired her because of concerns about her maternity leave. While the morals issue may have been a permissible reason to fire the woman, firing someone for taking maternity leave is illegal.

This case is among many others that have been filed in recent years that have tested the boundaries of freedom of religion in the employment law context. Freedom of religion and equal rights are crucial and well established rights under the constitution and these cases pose a unique challenge to the courts to determine where the line should be.

Source: Reuters, "Teacher fired over pregnancy can sue religious school," Terry Baynes, May 16, 2012.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information