Opinion: Dismissal

POSTED: 05/15/12 11:40 AM

Something good will come off the story about the teacher who lost her job for getting pregnant out of wedlock. For one, the case makes clear – to those who were unaware of it – what the rights of employees are.

Faith based schools are perfectly free to expect that teachers they hire support their guiding principles, but they are not above the law. We understand that it the case union-leader Elshot described, that the teacher voluntarily accepted her dismissal, so we figure that she did not really feel like going up against the school board to save her job.

But even so: whether or not the teacher agreed with her dismissal, according to civil law attorney Van Sambeek it is still not a valid dismissal. In theory, she could still go back to the school and claim the continued payment of her salary.

The bottom line is that employees ought to be aware of their rights and that employers ought to be aware of the law. The faith-based school apparently did not care about the law of the land, thinking incorrectly that adding the article about pregnancy out of wedlock to a labor contract is authorized by what religious people like to call a higher authority.

That this is wrong is clear by now. We also learned from Dutch case law that faith-based schools have to tread carefully when they are confronted with a situation that they feel goes against their principles.

The case of the married teacher, who divorced and then started a same sex relationship, proves this point. The school wanted to fire the teacher solely on the grounds that he had revealed his homosexual lifestyle and that he had started living together with a man. The school did not examine whether the teacher still stood behind the guiding principles of the school – something that is entirely possible. Since the school made no attempt to investigate this, the court rejected its request to dismiss the teacher.

What do we learn from this? For employees: read your labor contract and if you think there is something funny, or simply something you don’t understand, consult your union or a civil law attorney. For employers: stick to the labor laws, and you won’t go wrong.

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