Workers in Minnesota and across the country are protected from various types of discrimination in the workplace by state and federal laws. One of these prohibited forms of employment discrimination is discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.
A teacher has recently found herself fighting in court based on discrimination in the workplace. She is part of a lawsuit that claims the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati fired her because she was pregnant and unmarried. The woman was a teacher at a school administered by the archdiocese when she became pregnant through artificial insemination. Soon afterward, she was fired. Officials told her that the church opposes artificial insemination, teaching that it is immoral.
In her lawsuit, the teacher argues that even if the archdiocese had a policy against employees practicing artificial insemination, it applied this policy in a manner that discriminated against her because she is a woman. She argues that officials knew of at least one male employee who, with his wife, was practicing artificial insemination, but they took no action against him.
The archdiocese argues that the teacher was a ministerial employee. Courts have found that the separation of church and state guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution generally prohibits courts from interfering when religious groups cite religious grounds for firing ministerial employees. The teacher, however, argues that she had no ministerial duties in her job as a teacher.
In the background of her suit lies another issue. The teacher is gay, and the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is immoral. However, if the woman claimed that she was fired for being gay her case might be weak because there are few employment discrimination laws based upon sexual orientation.
Employment law is tricky in Minnesota and other states in the country. It gets more complicated when it runs into questions of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. However, Minnesota women shouldn’t have to lose their jobs when they get pregnant. Minnesota workers who feel that they have lost their jobs unlawfully should seek assistance and research their legal options.
Source: New York Daily News, “Pregnant teacher fired for artificial insemination to take witness stand in lawsuit against Cincinnati’s Catholic Church,” May 29, 2013