Like with union and non-union jobs, private schools often have different rules of employment and can cause some difficulties for employees in the event that they feel their rights have been violated. This is true for private school staff members here in Indiana and others across the nation.
It’s a story that’s playing out right now in California for two preschool teachers who say they were fired by a private school for refusing to provide a signed pastoral reference that vouched for the teacher’s religious faith. Now, in a lawsuit filed against the school and the religious organization who owns the school, the teachers are suing for wrongful termination, religious discrimination and compensation for lost wages as a result of their firing.
The two female teachers claim in their lawsuit that they had never encountered any problems with the private Christian preschool and elementary school until it was purchased by a religious organization in 2009. The teachers say that during the week of July 30, 2012, they each received a notices of an upcoming performance review and a letter requesting them to acquire a signed pastoral reference. The reference’s intent was to confirm whether an employee attended a church regularly and their involvement in the church. There was also a section on the reference form where a pastor needed to provide their opinion on the employee’s faith as well. The lawsuit states that this was the first time either of the women had been required to provide such documentation and were not informed whether failing to provide the reference would lead to their termination or not.
Cases such as this can become incredibly complicated because of how private schools are run. In the end though, if religious discrimination is found to be the underlying cause of the women’s termination, they just might have a chance at winning their case after all.
Source: Courthouse News, “Fired for Lack of Spiritual Proof, Teachers Say,” Rebekah Kearn, June 3, 2013