Teacher fired over pregnancy can sue religious school

Wed May 16, 2012 2:59pm EDT

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(Reuters) - An appeals court on Wednesday revived a Florida teacher's lawsuit against a Christian school that fired her after she admitted to conceiving a child before her marriage.

Overturning a lower court ruling in the school's favor, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found that Jarretta Hamilton was entitled to a trial on her claims of pregnancy discrimination by the Southland Christian School in St. Cloud, Florida.

The fourth-grade teacher informed administrators in April 2009 that she was pregnant and needed to take maternity leave. During the conversation, she admitted that she had conceived the child three weeks before her February wedding.

The school fired her a week later. Administrator John Ennis explained that "there are consequences for disobeying the word of God," according to the court opinion.

Hamilton sued the school in 2010 under a federal law that bars discrimination based on pregnancy, seeking compensation for lost wages and emotional distress.

A federal district court ruled in the school's favor before a trial, finding that Hamilton failed to establish that she was fired for her pregnancy rather than moral concerns over her premarital sex.

The three-judge appeals panel disagreed.

The Atlanta-based court pointed to evidence that the school may have been more concerned about Hamilton's request for leave than about her admission to having premarital sex.

Ennis expressed concern over finding a replacement teacher, Hamilton testified.

"Hamilton has established a genuine issue of material fact about the reason that Southland fired her. The ultimate issue is one for a jury to decide," Judge Edward Carnes wrote for the unanimous panel, sending the case back to the lower court for a trial.

David Gibbs, a lawyer for Southland Christian School, said in a statement that he would vigorously defend the school's religious rights before the district court. Edward Gay, who represented Hamilton, was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Terry Baynes; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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Comments (2)
oldnassau wrote:
Well, now, both Christians and Muslims believe Mary conceived Jesus when betrothed, but not yet married, to Joseph (“…Traditionally, Christians believe that she conceived her son miraculously by the agency of the Holy Spirit. Muslims believe that she conceived by the command of God. This took place when she was already betrothed to Saint Joseph and was awaiting the concluding rite of marriage, the formal home-taking ceremony…..”[Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_%28mother_of_Jesus%29 ), yet Ms. Hamilton is condemned for the same act (“she admitted to conceiving a child before her marriage…..” ). Actions speak louder than words: the act of God was impregnating a betrothed woman.

May 16, 2012 7:54pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Ramblinwreck wrote:

Comparing the conception of Jesus with the conception of this teachers child is RIDICULOUS and an afront to ALL religious peoples.

The VIRGIN Mary’s conception was an act of GOD and the Holy Spirt,not man.

When you read the Bible next, if you ever have, Please do not interptret too much with that feeble mind of yours.

The miracle of Jesus’s birth is not to be compared to this womens condition.

That being said, I do find it VERY UN-Christian of the school to fire her, leaving her pregnant without benefits. If they truely believe her having intercourse weeks before her marriage was wrong, giving her leave without pay, or someother less drastic action might have been more appropriate. After all, have they asked ever member of thier staff to prove they did not have “relations” before marriage or will not if they are single? Do they have a strict Moral’s clause that describes behavior outside of the classroom, and if so how do they montior it? These are the questions the School should have asked itself, because now a court will have to ask and answer this for them.

May 16, 2012 10:06pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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