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Pregnancy Discrimination Act Violated When School Fires Teacher for Premarital Pregnancy

May 21, 2012
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A teacher at a Christian school, who was fired after she told the administration she had become pregnant before her marriage, has presented sufficient evidence to establish she may have been terminated because of her pregnancy, and not the premarital sex, says an appellate court.

According to the May 16 ruling in Jarretta P. Hamilton vs. Southland Christian School Inc., Hamilton, who began teaching at the St. Cloud, Florida-based school in January 2008, conceived a child with her then-fiancé in January 2009. The couple got married the next month.

After she told Southland's administrator and assistant minister, John and Julie Ennis, what happened, she was fired four days later "purportedly because she had sinned by engaging in premarital sex and, as John Ennis put it, 'there are consequences for disobeying the word of God,'" said the ruling.

Hamilton sued for pregnancy discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A lower court dismissed the claim.

In its ruling, a three-judge appellate panel said the issue is whether the lower court erred in its conclusion Southland was entitled to summary judgment "on the ground that Hamilton had not established a prima facie case that she was fired because of her pregnancy instead of her premarital sex.

"The reason the difference matters is that Title VII does not protect any right to engage in premarital sex, but as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, Title VII does," said the court.

"Hamilton presented evidence that, in making the decision to fire her, Southland was more concerned about her pregnancy and her request to take maternity leave than about her admission that she had premarital sex," said the unanimous panel.

Judy Greenwald writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

 

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