A jury on June 4 ruled in favor of the former schoolteacher who in 2010 was fired by her employers after informing them she was pregnant. Christa Dias was awarded $171,000 in punitive and compensatory damages.
In 2010, Dias, a single, non-ministerial teacher at Holy Family and St. Lawrence Schools, both owned and operated by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, became pregnant via artificial insemination. When she asked her employers for maternity leave, she was promptly fired for violating a morality clause of her employment contract on the assumption she’d engaged in premarital sex.
When Dias filed a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, the Archdiocese countered with its rights to “ministerial exception” — a vague addendum to labor laws that exempts religious organizations from following anti-discrimination laws
Although Dias was originally told she was fired for having premarital sex, they later retracted and cited her use of artificial insemination as firing grounds, also a violation of the Catholic doctrine and her employment contract.
The jury ruled that because Dias, who taught computer technology, had no ministerial duties, she did not fall under the ministerial exception.
The Cincinnati Archdiocese has recently faced a litany of criticism for its moral policies, and Dias’ victory could have a wider impact on future court rulings on ministerial exception.
The Archdiocese is expected to appeal the jury’s decision.