A former assistant professor at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Oregon, has filed a $650,000 lawsuit against the university, alleging she was fired two weeks ago because she became pregnant out of wedlock, The Register-Guard reported. Coty Richardson, 35, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Lane County Circuit Court.
Richardson notified university officials in May that she was expecting a child. The suit alleges she was told by her then-employer if she wanted to keep her job, she would either have to proclaim the pregnancy a mistake and break up with the father, her boyfriend of 12 years, or get married immediately. Richardson refused the ultimatum and requested privacy in her personal life. She received a letter of termination July 30 stating in part, “sexual relations outside of marriage is contrary to the university’s core values” and the pregnancy “would result in a very demonstrative violation of that core value.”
Richardson also alleged after she disclosed her pregnancy to Dennis Lindsay, the university’s vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, he told her, “having a child out of wedlock while still continuing a relationship with the father ... set[s] a ‘bad example’ for the students."
The lawsuit Richardson filed accuses the university of civil rights violations and employment discrimination, wrongful termination, repudiation of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It asks for $150,000 to reimburse Richardson for economic losses and $500,000 to compensate her for emotional distress and other noneconomic damages.
The university violated state employment laws not only by discriminating against her for becoming pregnant, but also because “[Richardson's] religious views that it is entirely appropriate for her, as a Christian, to wait until she and her partner are financially, practically and emotionally ready to get married,” the lawsuit states. Richardson was also discriminated against because of her gender, she said, since male employees had not been fired when their partners became pregnant out of wedlock.
Northwestern Christian University, established in 1895, is a private Christian liberal arts college. The university’s website states all full-time faculty members are expected to demonstrate “a maturing Christian faith.” The suit states Richardson provided a required faith statement to the school that discussed her religion and how it relates to her work, but thought she would not be discriminated against because of her pregnancy based on the faculty manual’s anti-discrimination policy.
Richard had worked in the university’s exercise science program since August 2011.
In the past, there have been several cases involving religion and pregnancy. A teacher at a Christian school in Texas filed a lawsuit in 2012 after the school fired her for becoming pregnant.