The American Civil Liberties Union has succeeded in taking on a gender discrimination case against a Catholic school in Indiana. According to court documents, a teacher was discriminated against after she sought in vitro fertilization treatment to get pregnant.
After working at the school for more than seven years as a language arts and literature teacher, the Catholic school informed her that her contract would not be renewed because the act made her a “grave and moral sinner” through the eyes of the religious employer. This is one of many cases that pit civil liberties against religious rights.
The ACLU has worked aggressively to put an end to discrimination in the name of religious beliefs. In this case, a federal lawsuit was filed against the school and the local Catholic authorities for sex discrimination in the workplace. The legal team highlighted the reality that no man had ever been fired for his involvement with fertility treatments. In defense, attorneys on behalf of the school argued that the organization should be exempted from federal anti-discrimination laws because the decision was based on “sincerely-held religious beliefs.”
The argument, if accepted, would have been a serious blow to all civil liberties. Seeing the potential for abuses, the court fortunately held that schools and other religious organizations do not have the right to be exempt from discrimination laws, or permission to discriminate against employees, including teachers, simply because of a religious belief. The court agreed for the case to proceed and be heard by a jury.
The case was presented in a four-day trial, and the jury found the school and the local Catholic authorities violated the Civil Rights Act when they discriminated against the employee on the basis of sex. The jury awarded the teacher $1.9 million in damages. The success and penalties should be a reminder to private religious organizations, including schools, institutions and corporations that want to use religion to justify illegal discrimination against women and other protected classes.
Employment discrimination can take its toll on any victim. From adverse action in failure to hire, hostile work environment, retaliation and termination, those who have suffered from discrimination know the costs are severe. As the victim wrote in a blog for the ACLU, the entire case was “challenging and traumatic.” Still, she was glad to pursue the case for her own rights and the rights of others. Righting the wrong of illegal action is a first step to putting an end to unlawful employment discrimination.
The ACLU is working aggressively to stop discrimination in the name of religion. According to the organization, the fundamental right to exercise religion is not an excuse to discriminate. Our Orange County employment law attorneys are dedicated to protecting individuals who have suffered employment discrimination. We will also investigate any instance of employment discrimination that is committed on the basis of religious ideology in a company or organization. This is a complex area of law and should be handled by an experienced employment law attorney.
Employment lawsuits can be filed with assistance from the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange County. Call 949.375.4734.
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