Lawsuit Continues For Firing of Pregnant Woman

A previously dismissed lawsuit filed against St. Theresa School in Kenilworth, NJ will continue following an appeal by the plaintiff. The case was previously dismissed in 2016 decision claiming a broad exemption for religious institutions.

The plaintiff, Victoria Crisitello had been employed there for three years and disclosed to the school principal that she was pregnant in 2014. “On January 29, 2014, after consulting with other clerical and school personnel, Lee decided to fire plaintiff for engaging in premarital sex,” the decision says. It also stated that she had, “violated the Church’s ethical standards.” Representing Crisitello, Thomas McKinney, said that the plaintiff was engaged to be married at the time.

Crisitello signed a document agreeing to conduct herself in manners aligning with the Catholic Church when she was employed but argues that it does not prohibit pregnancy out of wedlock. She claims her firing was “a mere pretext for discrimination on the basis of (her) pregnancy.”

The document states:

“Immoral conduct, participation in abortion, committing homicide or euthanasia, possession or distribution of pornographic material, adultery, flagrant promiscuity or illicit co-habitation, abuse of alcohol, drugs, or gambling, theft, fraud, or any other form of misappropriation or misuse of Church funds or property and sexual exploitation or abuse.”

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits discrimination but also provides a “broad exemption for religious institutions.” However Crisitello argued that she was being singled out and that she faced “unequal treatment” since “women can become pregnant (and) men cannot,” and “it punishes only women for sexual relations because those relations are revealed through pregnancy.”

Tom McKinney stated that “This is a case where people aren’t being treated equally or fairly,” he said. “I saw it similarly to the Scarlet Letter — you think of the Hester Prynne character, and she was punished in society because she showed her sins, and you see the same things here.”