Welcome back to Monday School, still your ongoing source for “The Rational Corrective To All That Nonsense They Tried To Teach You Yesterday!”
Today we’re talking about employment standards and a specific example in California that is going to land a religious college in court. A Christian College in San Diego is being sued for gender discrimination for dismissing a woman who was pregnant. Their reason for the dismissal was a ‘lifestyle clause’ in her contract that she signed when accepting the position. This clause expected her to be a ‘Good Christian’ and to set an example for the students. Apparently a part of being a good Christian according to this college, was abstaining from pre-martial sex. So when a lady working for the college turns up pregnant and isn’t marred yet (she was engaged to be married), the college in question considered her pregnancy as evidence of premarital sex and promptly dismissed her.
If this was the entire story, the current case being taken to court would actually be a win for the school. She agreed to the contract, regardless of how stupid it was, and should have made an effort to follow it. She happens to claim the only reason why she agreed to it was out of fear that she would not be hired and in today’s job market, it was a job that was badly needed. Technically in this dreadful economy, a good lawyer could argue that companies are taking advantage of high unemployment numbers to duress people into signing contracts they normally wouldn’t agree to. That’s how I would attack the contract; it’s an abuse of power, which therefore makes it a contract signed under duress.
That however is not the reason why she’s going to win. After her dismissal, guess who the college hired to take her place? Her fiancé. I’m not kidding.
Her fiancé when hired also wasn’t married and was expecting a child, which means he too was guilty of pre-marital sex. The college didn’t seem to have a problem with men having premarital sex, a double standard that now makes this a case of gender discrimination. Also, if premarital sex really wasn’t the reason she was dismissed, since it wasn’t enough to stop her fiancé from getting the job, then it’s clear to see her pregnancy was the true reason she was dismissed, which is a big no no according to most labour laws. The moment this college hired her fiancé, they lost this case and are going to end up paying through the nose to make this go away.
There are a lot of people here who think the college is right, which couldn’t further from the truth. Yes, she signed a contract but what people don’t realize is the law overrules contracts, not the other way around. There actually is a law that states it’s illegal for people to draw up contracts if they know the terms in them are contradictory of the law. It means employers cannot force people to agree to make under minimum wage because that wage is set by law. So even if the employee signs it, the contract is still not legally binding because the labour laws override it. What many employers don’t realize is that contracts are not absolute. A legal contract even when agreed upon by two willing parties can still be ruled null and void by the courts. In other words, even if she signed the contract willingly, the courts can still rule in her favour if the terms of the contract violate labour laws.
Believe it or not, lifestyle contracts are illegal in Canada. Up here an employer is not allowed to dictate what an employee does when away from the workplace. Such contracts are a violation of human rights, and here’s hoping cases like this bring such contracts to an end in the United States. But Christians seems to assume their supernatural beliefs trump the law. I’m afraid not. Everyone has to obey the law, despite what your imaginary friend tells you.
Here are some interesting things that came to mind when I was reading this article about gender discrimination:
1) What if this woman’s lawyer walked into court and claimed that her client’s pregnancy is a result of ‘immaculate conception’? How exactly would attorneys representing a Christian College argue against something they believed actually happened two thousand years ago to a woman named Mary? That defence would put any religious institution between a rock and hard place…
2) What if the pregnancy in question was caused by an act that was non-consensual? Could you imagine the outrage if a College fired someone for being raped? Then again, we have laws against employers asking people questions about their sex life. Just asking the employee if she was pregnant is not legal. Asking any employee if they are sexually active is also grounds to file a complaint of sexual harassment. This college is going to get obliterated in court.
3) The biggest problem I have with this is the fact that the same standards didn’t apply to men. Then again considering this is coming from a religion that has a long history of gender discrimination… can we really act this surprised?
Whether you agree with it or not, this College is going to lose and lose big.
The law is there to protect people specifically from this kind of discrimination. Employers are not allowed to inquire about the personal lives of their employees and if it turns out that your employee is doing something illegal, it’s not your employers job to enforce it. That’s what the police is for.