Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Teacher May Sue Catholic School For Pregnancy Discrimination

In Crisitello v. St. Theresa School, (NJ App., July 24, 2018), a New Jersey state appellate court reversed a trial court's dismissal of a discrimination suit brought against a Catholic parochial school by a former preschool lay teacher who had been fired for engaging in premarital sex. The teacher was terminated for violating the Church's ethical standards when it was found that she was pregnant and unmarried. Plaintiff sued under New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination, claiming pregnancy discrimination. The court said in part:
To be clear, in this case, plaintiff does not raise any challenge to defendant's religious doctrines or its right to specify a code of conduct for its employees based on that doctrine. Rather, she seeks an adjudication of her claim that she has been singled out for application of that doctrine as a pretext for impermissible discriminatory reasons. If proven, such conduct by defendant would be a violation of secular law protecting against discrimination....
In a case involving the firing of a pregnant employee, evidence of how male employees were treated is particularly useful in determining whether unmarried pregnant women are treated differently. Absent evidence that men are treated the same way as women who are terminated for engaging in premarital sex, a religious institution violates LAD because if "'women can become pregnant [and] men cannot,' it punishes only women for sexual relations because those relations are revealed through pregnancy."