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A pregnant employee at a Christian college says that she was fired for having premarital sex.
The woman, Teri James, claims that this is wrongful termination and has filed a lawsuit against the San Diego Christian College, reports ABC. She's being represented by noted woman's rights attorney Gloria Allred.
James had worked as a financial aid specialist at the college when rumors started circulating that she was pregnant. After confirming the rumor, James claimed that the school told her that she could either quit or be fired.
The school reportedly has a “community covenant,” or a set of lifestyle rules regarding the school’s Christian mission. In the covenant, the school allegedly frowns upon sexually immoral behavior, including premarital sex, reports ABC. However, the covenant does not specify what should happen if the covenant be broken — such as the termination of an employee.
Allred says that while it is fine for the Christian college to maintain its own moral code, the school still has to comply with the laws of California. These laws include prohibiting discrimination on account of gender, marital status, and pregnancy.
Since the school is accused of terminating James because of her martial status (she wasn’t married) and because she is pregnant, the school may be liable for discrimination.
The school did not comment on the case, but it will be interesting to see what defenses they offer. If its covenant is critical to the school’s mission, an argument can be made that it had a valid reason to fire James. This is especially true if the school applies its policy in an even-handed fashion, meaning that it terminates men who break the policy as well.
If the school simply fired the woman for having premartial sex (and not because she was pregnant), the school’s action may be justifiable. For what it is worth, James is now married. She is still pregnant and is expecting a boy in June.