A professor who previously worked for Northwest Christian University in Oregon has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the school for terminating her employment because she became pregnant and is unmarried. The institution claims that her behavior was in violation of its values.
Coty Richardson had taught exercise science at the school for four years, and she adored the small classes, the values of the school, and its compassionate environment. However, when she informed her supervisor that she had become pregnant, she initially believed that she would be provided with the option of giving a take-home exam at the end of the semester, which coincided with the time at which she was due to deliver a baby boy.
Instead, her supervisor stated that since she was pregnant, it would become apparent as she would soon be showing. She said that he presented her with two options. One was to end the relationship with the father of the child, and the other was to get married quickly. She did not agree to either choice. As Richardson stated in an interview with www.npr.org, she was working in a professional environment, and her employer had no right to interfere with, and place demands on, her private life. As a result of her refusal to comply with his request, she was terminated. She then filed a lawsuit against the institution, alleging that she was discriminated against due to her gender, pregnancy and marital status.
Richardon’s attorney, Jason Rittereiser, said that the school has engaged in marital discrimination because had his client been married, she would not be faced with the same restriction. He went on to say that religious employers possess much leeway concerning the employment of clergy or ministers. However, with respect to the employment of someone whose role is irrelevant to a ministerial function, the employer must act in accordance with employment laws.
Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia, believes the school had accused Richardson of acting in violation of its principal values by having relations outside of marriage. According to Laycock, in the church’s view, she is subverting its calling. He also said that in Oregon, there is no religious freedom act, and that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal statute, cannot be applied in the school’s defense because the case focuses on state law.
Richardson said that as a result of her termination, she and her family have been under a great deal of stress, and she is currently unable to afford health insurance. If you think that you have been the victim of discrimination in the workplace based on gender, pregnancy or marital status, you should consult an employment lawyer.