Whether it takes on more subtle and insidious forms or continues to be overt acts of hostility, discrimination against female workers by the religious institutions that employ them continues to persist in the United States. In fact, it may very well be on the rise. The discriminatory tactics have evolved in response to a whole host of recent activities that center on women's reproductive rights. These tactics highlight the importance of upholding important constitutional rights and representing groups of people who are discriminated against unfairly. Unfortunately, women continue to fall into this category of people that require representation and vindication of their constitutional rights, and those working for religious institutions may find themselves in a particularly difficult situation.
Pretext for firing female employees
Some religious institutions are hostile to women's reproductive rights, even though many means of reproductive health care are generally accepted in the medical community and in the world at large. For example, a teacher at a Catholic school was fired after she requested time off to receive in vitro fertilization treatment. The rationale for the firing as stated by the school pastor was that she was a "grave, immoral sinner." The school sought to prevent the scandal that would surely ensue, were others to find out about the teacher's in vitro fertilization treatment. Other women have been discriminated against by their employers after becoming pregnant outside of marriage.
Legal action for women that have been discriminated against
Women that have been subject to discrimination by a religious employer in this manner have various avenues for legal recourse that they can pursue. Women can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that deals directly with employment discrimination, and can sue their employer in federal court for religious or sex discrimination - or both.
State Law may also provide remedies, and women that have been discriminated against may pursue state law remedies in state court. For example, discrimination against pregnant women is unlawful under the Texas Labor Code, as is discrimination against a person on the basis of religion. Such state and federal claims can also be combined in a single lawsuit against the religious institution employer.
The best approach for a woman seeking to remedy the harms associated with sex discrimination in the workplace is to consult with an experienced attorney. He or she can most appropriately and effectively assist victims of discrimination and begin the healing process the right way.