Pregnant and single is OK, jury decides

Jurors side with fired Catholic school teacher in Ohio who was artificially inseminated
Associated Press
Jun 4, 2013

A Catholic school teacher who was fired after she became pregnant through artificial insemination was awarded more than $170,000 Monday after winning her anti-discrimination lawsuit against an Ohio archdiocese.

A federal jury found that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati discriminated against Christa Dias by firing her in October 2010.

Dias, who taught computer classes, declined to comment immediately after the verdict but said later in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that she was "very happy and relieved."

The jury said the archdiocese should pay a total of $71,000 for back pay and compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages. Dias had sued the archdiocese and two of its schools; the jury didn't find the schools liable for damages.

Dias' attorney, Robert Klingler, had argued she was fired simply because she was pregnant and unmarried, a dismissal he said violated state and federal law. He had suggested damages as high as $637,000, but Dias said she was satisfied with the jury's award.

"It was never about the money," she said. "They should have followed the law and they didn't."

Steven Goodin, the attorney for the archdiocese and the schools, had argued Dias was fired for violating her contract, which he said required her to comply with the philosophies and teachings of the Catholic church. The church considers artificial insemination immoral and a violation of church doctrine.

"We gave always argued that this case was about a contract violation and should never have been allowed to come to trial," Goodin said after the verdict.

He said that while he was disappointed in the finding against the archdiocese, he was relieved the schools were not held liable, saying that would have proven a financial hardship for them.

Archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco said after court that for the archdiocese, it was always "a matter of principle" and about "an employee who broke a contract she signed."

Dias, who is not Catholic, testified she didn't know artificial insemination violated church doctrine or her employment pact. She said she thought the contract clause about abiding by church teachings meant she should be a Christian and follow the Bible.

The case, viewed as a barometer on the degree to which religious organizations can regulate employees' lives, is the second lawsuit filed in the last two years against the archdiocese over the firing of an unmarried pregnant teacher.

The archdiocese had argued prior to trial that Dias was a ministerial employee and that the Supreme Court has said religious groups can dismiss those employees without government interference. But Klingler insisted Dias had no such duties, and the court found that she was not a ministerial employee.

Klingler said the case shows jurors are willing to apply the law "even to churches and religious organizations when non-ministerial employees are discriminated against."

Goodin said he thinks the verdict could result in churches and religious organizations making their contracts "lock in" employees so specifically that it could be "hard to bring these types of lawsuits in the future."

While Goodin said a decision would be made later on whether to appeal, legal experts believe it will definitely end up in an appeals court.

Issues they believe could be raised include how to define a ministerial employee and how to resolve the conflict between religious employers' rights versus the rights of women seeking to reproduce.

Dias also has claimed that the church policies are not enforced equally against men and women.

Goodin argued that Dias, who is gay, never intended to abide by her contract. She kept her sexual orientation a secret because she knew that homosexual acts also would violate that contract, he said.

Neither Dias nor the archdiocese claim she was fired because she is gay, and the judge told jurors that they could not consider sexual orientation in determining motivating factors for the firing.

Dias, formerly from suburban Cincinnati, now lives in Atlanta with her partner and their 2-year-old daughter.

Dias said she pursued the lawsuit "for the sake of other women" who might find themselves in a similar situation. She also said she filed it for "my daughter's sake, so she knows it's important to stand up for what's right."

Comments

vicariouslyAlive

... ok, so im in no way a super religious person... god, no god, what ever, believe what you will..

but...

if you're going to choose to work for company, you should have to play by their rules. she works for a catholic school, she should have to follow the catholic rules. what she did was a slap in the face of not only the institution the cuts her a pay check, but then had the opposing side grant her permission to under mind her employer... i thought there was a separation between the church and the state, so im trying to fathom how the state could preside over a religious matter...

all places of business have a code of conduct somewhere in the rule books, and when working for a religious institution you'd have to assume that the code of conduct rule book would basically be the bible right?

basically this woman went fishing for a lawsuit and landed a giant catch...

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I think this case is more about contractual law than church vs. state (or vice versa). To use a local example, think of Cedar Point and their dress policy. You can absolutely hate theme parks and still work there, but if Cedar Point doesn't outline their dress policy to you at orientation, in HR, or have supervisors/management enforce it and you are fired for having a tattoo showing then who is at fault? It's not illegal to have a tattoo, yet you violated a policy that was never clearly defined.

In this case could it have been a misinformed choice for a homosexual, non-Catholic to sign an agreement to abide by that faith's terms for employment? Yes, perhaps. But so too would it be the entity for not clearly screening and/or outlaying their policies to their prospects. While I am not a lawyer (but I bet I could play one on TV, any recruiters?!) I would suspect that unless she went into this to intentionally defraud the church or violate its contract it was otherwise made in - no pun intended - good faith that she could work in the environment presented to her.

Also, there can only be so much separation between a religious organization and the law of the land. Every once in a while you see stories about families charged with crimes against their children for simply trying to pray the leukemia away instead of seeking proper medical care. Or why it is still illegal to go on a peyote-fueled spirit journey in a sweat lodge as hallucinogenics tend to confer negative social effects like biting the faces off of people.

Kelly

Yes, having a baby is such a slap in the face

Finn Finn

No dear, you've missed the point. Artificial insemination is a violation of Church doctrine, and THAT is a slap in the Church's (her employer's) face. She should work at a public school, and allow the private, religious, non-government funded schools to run their schools as they wish. Everyone wants a piece of the Catholic Church nowadays.

Kelly

I didn't miss a thing. She did nothing wrong.

Finn Finn

Again, she was fired because she violated the contract she signed with the school which required her to comply with the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding artificial insemination. You are confusing this sequence of events with YOUR PERSONAL OPINION regarding artificial insemination. Have a nice day.

Kelly

Again, the court found she did nothing wrong.

Finn Finn

Your intial comment was "Yes, having a baby is such a slap in the face." Thus, the commentary / exchange which followed was to make clear to you that the lawsuit was filed because she violated her employment contract by being artifically inseminated, not because she had a baby. Continue to have a nice day. ^_^

Kelly

No she didn't violate anything. That's why she won.

Finn Finn

The Catholic Church considers artificial insemination a violation of Church doctrine. She signed an employment contract whereby she agreed to abide by Church doctrine. She then was artificially inseminated. Without the discrimination defense, please explain to me how the court came to its ruling. I

chongo

Well is that the Catholic Church that hides/harbors/covers up all the kid touching? Is that the same church? Don't think they can really say much in the world anymore.. Organized Religion is not to be trusted any longer!

The Big Dog's back

Does this same philosophy of yours apply to union shops too? You know, follow the union by laws?

thinkagain

… she filed it for "my daughter's sake, so she knows it's important to stand up for what's right."

In other words, “no matter how wrong you are, you can always convince yourself and others that you are right.”

“It is not truth that matters, but victory.”
― Adolf Hitler

Kelly

But she wasn't wrong

Finn Finn

* See above.

Kelly

There's nothing wrong with what she did

Nemesis

Kelly, she signed a contract, and broke it. While your personal feelings apparently don't believe people should abide by contracts they sign, the law of the land says otherwise.

eriemom

There is no enforceable contract unless there is a meeting of the minds. That did not happen in this case.

Finn Finn

Your contract law interpretation is flawed. The Church was not required to make sure she was educated in Catholic doctrine prior to her signing a contract. That is something she should have looked into herself, as one would do before signing any contract. It would appear she certainly knew enough to keep her homosexuality a secret until she could use it to her advantage. This woman is not stupid. She clearly did as she wanted to do and to he!! with the employment contract. She wanted the job but didn't want to play by her employer's rules.

Kelly

The court didn't agree.

Finn Finn

Wrong again Kelly. The court did not find that there was no "meeting of the minds", thus making the contract unenforceable. The Court found that the Archdiocese "discriminated against Christa Dias by firing her in October 2010". Her own attorney even argued that she was fired because she was "pregnant and umarried", not because the employment contract was unenforceable because there was no "meeting of the minds." Capish?

Kelly

She won

Finn Finn

Wow, what an insightful comment. ^_^

Kelly

Mmhmmm

Finn Finn

quick too!!!

Kelly

Mmhhhhmmm

Finn Finn

You still haven't answered my question at 4:39.

Kelly

I don't have to answer anything. I have no idea why you can't understand such a simple concept. She won. It is right there in the first paragraph.

Finn Finn

If you want to make comments on this board, you should know what you're talking about. You don't have a clue, do you.

Kelly

Pot meet kettle

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