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Teacher fired after mother's obituary

Missouri residents may be surprised to learn that the contents of a parent's published obituary could lead to the loss of a job, but that is exactly what one woman says happened to her. The woman claims she was fired from her job at a Catholic school after her mother's obituary included the name of her same-sex partner. She is now considering taking legal action against her former employer for wrongful termination.

The woman, who taught for 19 years at the school, says she was fired after school authorities received an anonymous letter from a "concerned parent." The letter complained that an obituary published following the death of the woman's mother listed the woman's same-sex spouse. Two weeks after her mother died, the woman was told that the school was investigating the complaint, but she says she never got to tell her side of the story. The school fired her just before Easter in March on the grounds that her same-sex relationship was contrary to church teachings.

A teachers' union currently is pursuing a grievance on the woman's behalf. According to her attorney, the woman also plans to file a complaint alleging that her discharge constituted unlawful sexual orientation discrimination.

It can be difficult to challenge a termination from a religious school on the grounds of unlawful discrimination because some courts grant religious institutions exemptions from coverage under the employment discrimination laws. Such cases are possible, however, especially with the assistance of an experienced employment law attorney. For example, a federal judge recently allowed one case to proceed involving a teacher who was fired from a Catholic school for becoming pregnant through artificial insemination.

Source: Kansas City Star, "Gay Catholic school teacher in Ohio fights firing", JOHN SEEWER, April 29, 2013

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