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California court: Woman legally fired for living with boyfriend

A California appellate court ruled earlier this month that a woman was not fired illegally by her employer for living with her boyfriend. Although employers typically cannot fire an individual for living with a partner out of wedlock, the appeals court ruled that because the woman's former employer is a religious corporation, the employer is exempt from certain state laws.

The woman filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against her former employer, a Christian school, after she was fired from her position as a preschool teacher in May 2009. According to the lawsuit, the school had violated California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees.

The woman began working at the Christian school in August 2002. She was married at the time but later divorced while she was employed at the school. When the woman had a child with her boyfriend in June 2007, she told church representatives that she did plan on marrying her child's father.

But nearly two years after having the child together, the woman and her boyfriend were still not married. The Christian school fired the preschool teacher citing that the woman's living situation did not conform to the teachings of the church.

In a ruling consistent with other decisions in similar cases, the California Court of Appeal concluded that the school did not violate FEHA laws since religious corporations are exempt from the public policy. The court also concluded that the woman could have prevented her termination from the school either by choosing to marry her boyfriend or by choosing to change her living arrangements.

Employees are protected under state and federal laws in order to ensure that their employment with a company is secure. If an employee believes that he or she was wrongfully terminated, the individual may be able to take legal action in order to hold the employer accountable for any illegal actions.

Source: Business Insurance, "Christian school not liable in firing teacher living with boyfriend," Judy Greenwald, Dec. 13, 2011

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