NJ Supreme Court will hear from teacher fired for unwed pregnancy
The state’s Supreme Court has agreed to consider the discrimination lawsuit of a female teacher fired by a Union County Catholic school for being pregnant while unmarried.
Victoria Crisitello first filed her suit in 2014 against St. Theresa School in Kenilworth, where she taught art to elementary-aged students.
Earlier that same year, Crisitello had spoken with the school’s principal about taking on extra responsibilities, during which she told Sister Theresa Lee that she was pregnant and would like to be paid more if she added to her work duties.
Not only did Lee respond that there would be no raise, but she fired her a few weeks later and told her it was due to her being pregnant and unmarried, according to the complaint.
The school also hired a replacement art teacher, who happened to be a married woman with children, the suit said.
The lawsuit has twice been dismissed by trial court judges, but each time has been reversed by an appeals court.
Attorneys for the school have argued that Cristitello knew she was in violation of Catholic principles by the nature of her situation, to which a second trial judge agreed.
But back in November, an appeals court reversed that decision, saying that the school had “relied only upon knowledge of its female employees' pregnancy and marital status as a basis to enforce its code of ethics and handbook requirements."
While the private school has a legal right to fire a teacher whose employment was conditioned upon following "religious principles," the court said, it did not show proof that it bothered to question all faculty and staff about possible similar violations.
Copies of the school's code of ethics and handbook do not specifically indicate that premarital
sex would lead to termination.
The state Supreme Court granted the petition for certification on May 18.