A pregnant California woman is suing her former Christian employer for wrongful termination, claiming she was fired from her job at a San Diego college because she engaged in premarital sex and became pregnant out of wedlock.
Up until four months ago, Teri James was a financial aid specialist at San Diego Christian College in El Cajon -- until she said rumors were going around the school that she might be pregnant, TheDenverChannel.com writes.
In October, according to Today.com James said her supervisor called her to her office and got straight to the point: Was James pregnant?
The 29-year-old was indeed pregnant– and she was also unmarried, a violation of school rules, according to the lawsuit she filed in San Diego County superior court, TheDenverChannel.com states.
University officials contend that all job candidates must sign its “community covenant,” before they are hired; a two-page contract that asks its community, to abstain from drugs, alcohol and tobacco and “abusive anger, malice, jealousy, lust, sexually immoral behavior including premarital sex, adultery, pornography and homosexuality, evil desires and prejudice based on race, sex or socioeconomic status.” According to TheDenverChannel.com, students must also sign the contract.
James said the H.R. director then gave her two options: quit or be fired, according to ABC7.
"I had to leave right after the meeting. I had to go into the office with all of my co-workers and say I'm leaving," James told Today.com, speaking by phone with her famed lawyer, Gloria Allred. "I never came back so I don't know what my co-workers thought, but for me, it was humiliating. I felt like I was in trouble."
"The HR director indicated that she was not being fired because she was pregnant. Instead, she was being terminated because she had premarital sex," said Allred at a news conference Thursday.
Additionally, Allred said the child's father received completely different treatment from the school, Today.com reported.
According to Allred, after firing her, the school offered a job to her then-fiancé even though it was known that he, too, engaged in premarital sex. He did not accept the job, she said.
Allred told ABC7 that she hopes the case prevents gender discrimination in workplaces across the state:
"They can call themselves a Christian college, but they have to comply with the laws of the state of California, which prohibit discrimination on account of gender, marital status and pregnancy, and with the California constitution, which guarantees the right of privacy," said Allred.
Meanwhile, reactions on campus are mixed. "I don't want to say she deserved it because that's kind of harsh," San Diego Christian College student Cassidy Martin told TheDenverChannel.com, "but I mean, I know what the rules are, so I know also the consequences."
Student Ashley Jarosin sees it differently. "Everyone sins in life … I think they should give her a chance to at least prove herself," she said.
School officials had scheduled an interview with San Diego's ABC station to talk about the case. But the school's lawyer intervened and told the college not to talk to the media, its sister station said.
James, who had worked at the college as a financial aid specialist for two years, said the university makes it very clear to job seekers that they expect them to share biblical teachings and traditional Christian beliefs-- but said those who made the rules aren't practicing what they preach.
"San Diego Christian College did not show any mercy or grace towards me, and acted completely un-Christ-like," James told ABC7. "They made more of a business decision than showing God's love."
Teri James is married and the couple is expecting their first child, a boy, in June, ABC7 writes.