This case highlights the importance of ensuring that government funds do not support programs that discriminate against their employees, particularly in light of recent discussions of expanding federal government support of "faith-based initiatives." Our client A.N. directed an after-school program for middle school students outside Buffalo, New York. The program is state-funded and located in a public school, but is administered by Catholic Charities of Buffalo (who also paid A.N.’s salary). When A.N., who is not married, became pregnant, she was informed that she would have to resign or accept a demotion to a position that involved no youth contact. An excellent employee, A.N. was relegated to a lesser position for no other reason than that she was unmarried and pregnant.
In 2003, the NYCLU’s Reproductive Rights Project (RRP) filed a lawsuit against the Grand Island School District in the Western District of New York alleging gender and pregnancy discrimination under Title VII (the federal anti-discrimination in employment law), under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and under the Due Clause Process Clause protecting the right to sexual and procreative liberty. The RRP also filed a pregnancy and religious discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who found that Catholic Charities’ action constituted illegal discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and that Catholic Charities’ asserted justification for the transfer – poor job performance – was pretextual. The RRP was then able to negotiate a settlement for A.N., including formal adoption of anti-discrimination policy by both Catholic Charities of Buffalo and the Grand Island School District. The Grand Island Board of Education then updated its Equal Employment Opportunity policies to incorporate pregnancy and marriage as bases upon which employment, retention and advancement decisions shall not be made.
W.D.N.Y., Index No. 03 Civ. 0561 C(SR) (direct)