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Pregnant Teacher Sues School District Over Catholic School Firing

By    |   Friday, 22 August 2014 07:05 PM

An ex-Catholic school teacher who became pregnant is suing the school district for firing her over her pregnancy as an unwed mother.

Shaela Evenson filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Butte on Thursday, alleging her firing violated federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination based on pregnancy, The Montana Standard reported. She is seeking back pay, benefits, and compensatory and punitive damages, according to The Associated Press.

Evenson taught literature and physical education for grades 6 through 8 at Butte Central Catholic Schools for nine years. She was fired in January after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena received a letter about her pregnancy.

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School officials referred all questions to the diocese, and diocesan spokesman Dan Bartleson declined to comment Friday. The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection in January, and the diocese wants to see how the Bankruptcy Court decides the claim should be handled, he said.

Evenson was fired for violating the terms of her contract, which required her to practice the tenets of the Catholic faith, said Patrick Haggarty, then the superintendent of schools for the diocese.

She became pregnant through artificial insemination and gave birth to a boy March 7, the first child for Evenson and her partner, Marilyn Tobin.

Evenson is not Catholic, and the school district and the diocese were aware of that, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit argues that the school district does not investigate male employees and nonpregnant female employees for compliance with Catholic Church teachings.

In a similar case in Ohio, Evenson's lawyer, Brian Butler of Cincinnati, won a $170,000 jury award. He said the case made it clear that an employer, even a religious institution, cannot require an employee to give up certain civil rights as a condition of employment.

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An ex-Catholic school teacher who became pregnant is suing the school district for firing her over her pregnancy as an unwed mother.
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Friday, 22 August 2014 07:05 PM
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