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Court upholds Christian group's firing of divorced worker

A woman in Michigan lost her appeal after a court ruled in favor of her employer's decision to fire her for getting a divorce. The woman's former employer, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, won the case by asserting the ministerial exception to federal employment discrimination laws. Although IVCF is not a church, the federal appeals court said that the religious organization was still entitled to invoke the ministerial exception.

The plaintiff in the employment discrimination case had been an employee of the Christian campus ministry group since 1986. From 2004 until 2011, she served as the organization's spiritual director. In March 2011, the woman let her supervisor know that she and her husband were contemplating getting a divorce. As a result, her supervisor placed her on paid leave and encouraged her to work things out with her husband.

When the woman and her husband were unable to save their marriage, the woman was issued a termination letter by IVCF. Despite her requests to return to work, the woman was fired from her job on Dec. 15, 2011. In the letter, the woman's former employer clearly stated that the woman was being fired because the reconciliation with her husband was not successful. The woman's husband filed for divorce the following month.

In a majority of cases, an employer cannot make a decision to fire one of its employees based on the employee's marital status. A person who has been the subject of workplace discrimination by a secular employer because of their marital status might have a case for filing a wrongful termination claim. Many people who have been victims of this kind of discrimination choose to seek help in this regard from an attorney.

Source: Mlive.com, "Christian group fires woman for marriage trouble; appeals court upholds firing", John Agar, Feb. 6, 2015

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