Being unwed and pregnant can get you fired

Apr 11, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. ET

An unmarried pregnant teacher was dismissed from the private Christian school where she worked.

Is the school right to require teachers to adhere to their Christian values, or were they out of line?

Cathy Samford, a teacher at a private Christian school in Texas, got an unwelcome surprise when she informed her employers she was expecting a baby. Instead of a discussion about planning her maternity leave, she was given her walking papers. Citing a part of her contract about upholding Christian values, she was fired, and Cathy is now preparing a lawsuit against the school.

Be a role model

The headmaster at Heritage Christian Academy in Rockwall, Texas, expressed sorrow at having to let the teacher go but said her actions as an unmarried woman went against the values the school hopes to instill in their students -- and those they expect the staff to uphold, as well. Cathy's contract stipulated she be a "Christian role model" but says wording is vague, and she didn't violate the clause.

She and her fiance were planning to get married but a series of events put the nuptials off. She offered to get married to keep her job but the school declined, stating that as she'd already unveiled her news to students, it was simply too late.

Good move

Some parents we polled felt it was a good move by the school.

"As a Christian school, and a private one at that, I agree that the teachers need to be a good role model for the students there," said Jenn, mom of two.

John from Missouri had a similar viewpoint. "In my opinion, employers have the right to fire employees for any reason," he shared. "It's their business, they can run it their way and fire anyone who doesn't fit into their way. I personally wouldn't fire her for it, but I can see why this particular school felt it was appropriate."

Not so fast

Other parents were appalled at the school's actions. "I think it is ridiculous that in this day and age that they expect this," Michelle from Kansas told us.

Lily, mother of one, agreed. "I understand that it is a Christian school but honestly expecting a teacher to strictly abide by a set of vague rules that aren't even outlined in the contract?" she asked. "No way. I think she has a good case for a lawsuit."

Can't take it back

The school made a big step when they fired Cathy, and they may want to consider rewording the staff's contracts. Both sides will get their day in court, but until then, you may want to pore over your contract at work to make sure there's no pregnancy clause.

More on pregnancy and maternity leave

Your new job and discovering you are pregnant
Maternity leave -- what are my rights?
Maternity leave vs. FMLA leave