Photo Credits: Independent
One first grade school teacher from Kansas City, Michelle Bolen, claimed she was terminated because she was pregnant, unwed and refused to have an abortion. The diocese said she was let go because of poor performance. After the trial, a jury found in favor of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and school Principal Carol Lenz, both of whom claimed she was fired for reasons related to poor performance.
Unfortunately, the school was a private Catholic school and Missouri law made a pregnancy discrimination law unavailable to the prosecution.
The teacher, Michelle Bolen, told Jackson County jurors she believed administrators at St. Therese Catholic elementary school closely watched her after she disclosed her pregnancy. Bolen’s testimony came more than three years after she filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the school’s former principal, claiming she was harassed, targeted and fired because of her pregnancy.
Attorneys for the diocese have said Bolen’s lawyers twisted the facts of the case to make it appear to be “something nefarious when it was not.”
Bolen’s attorney, E.E. Keenan, said that Missouri pregnancy law exempts churches. “We could not sue them for pregnancy discrimination. We were severely limited in what legal claims we were able to present. We could only present a few other limited claims that were supported by the facts but harder to prove. This verdict is not an endorsement of what the diocese did and not a criticism of Michelle, just that there is a huge gap in Missouri law as it pertains to workers in religious-based schools in Missouri.”
The suit says that the Rev. Joseph Cisetti, the priest at the school and parish, told Bolen that she made the “right choice in terms of keeping the baby, but that she violated the terms of her school contract by being pregnant while not being married.”
As The Kansas City Star reports, Bolen received positive performance reports every year she’d worked there until after she told Cisetti about her pregnancy. And while the school subsequently put Bolen on a performance review plan, poor performance was not listed among the reasons in the letter notifying her the contract would not be renewed... Her contract officially ended on July 31, 2015.