CINCINNATI — A teacher who sued a Catholic archdiocese for firing her after she became pregnant through artificial insemination won her anti-discrimination lawsuit Monday and was awarded more than $170,000.
A federal jury found that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati discriminated against Christa Dias by firing her in October 2010.
Dias, who taught computer classes, declined to comment immediately after the jury reached its verdict but said later in a telephone interview with The Associated Press that she was “very happy and relieved.”
The jury said the archdiocese should pay $51,000 in back pay, $20,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages. Dias had sued the archdiocese and two of its schools; the jury didn’t find the schools liable for damages.
Her attorney, Robert Klingler, had argued that Dias was fired simply because she was pregnant and unmarried, a dismissal that he said violated federal and state laws. He had suggested Dias be awarded damages of about $637,000, but Dias said she was satisfied with the jury’s award.
“It was never about the money,” she said. “They should have followed the law and they didn’t.”
Steven Goodin, the attorney for the archdiocese and the schools, had argued Dias was fired for violating her contract. The church considers artificial insemination immoral and a violation of church doctrine, and the contract required her to comply with the philosophies and teachings of the Catholic church, Goodin said.
He said that while he was disappointed in the verdict, he was relieved that the schools were not held liable. He says the case will have to be studied to determine whether the archdiocese will appeal.
Dias, who is not Catholic, testified she didn’t know artificial insemination violated church doctrine or her employment pact. She said she thought the contract clause about abiding by church teachings meant she should be a Christian and follow the Bible.
Dias also has claimed that the church policies are not enforced equally against men and women.
Goodin argued that Dias, who is gay, never intended to abide by her contract. She kept her sexual orientation a secret because she knew that homosexual acts also would violate that contract, he said.
Neither Dias nor the archdiocese claim she was fired because she is gay, and the judge told jurors that they could not consider sexual orientation in determining motivating factors for the firing.
Dias, formerly from suburban Cincinnati, now lives in Atlanta with her partner and their 2-year-old daughter. They would have remained in Cincinnati if she had not been fired, Dias said.
The case, viewed as a barometer on the degree to which religious organizations can regulate employees’ lives, is the second lawsuit that’s been filed in the last two years against the archdiocese over the firing of an unmarried pregnant teacher.