Key point 8-12.4. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers engaged in commerce and having at least 15 employees from discriminating in any employment decision on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, or religion. The Act permits religious organizations to discriminate in employment decisions on the basis of religion. This exemption permits such organizations to discriminate on the basis of moral or scriptural standards so long as they do consistently and not in a way that adversely impacts employees who are members of a group that is protected under an applicable state or federal discrimination law.
An Alabama federal district court ruled that a church childcare employee who was terminated from her position on account of being pregnant out of wedlock could sue the church for pregnancy discrimination. A church employed a woman (the “plaintiff”) as a maintenance and childcare employee from March 17, 2015, to August 27, 2015. The plaintiff notified her employer at some point during the summer of 2015 that she was pregnant. A pastor became aware that the plaintiff was pregnant, and the church terminated her employment. The church informed her that it terminated her because of the pregnancy. The pastor later explained that he discharged the plaintiff because she engaged in sexual conduct outside of marriage in violation of biblical standards, and she sowed discord among the daycare workers. The church’s daycare director corroborated these assertions.