Judge Throws The Book At Christian Organization That Fired Woman For Being Pregnant

A Christian non-profit organization fired a woman because she was pregnant, and a U.S. District Court made them pay the price for it.

Sharmira Johnson performed her job well, according to her own employer. She was a model employee for United Bible Fellowship Ministries, Inc., a non-profit that cares for the disabled and helps provide them with housing. But because Sharmira became pregnant, her employer fired her.

United Bible Fellowship Ministries in Houston, Texas has a strict rule against employees becoming pregnant. They won’t hire women who are pregnant and they will terminate employees who get pregnant. They also unlawfully require female applicants to disclose whether or not they are currently pregnant, which would automatically cost them any shot at getting the job. It’s a “no pregnancy in the workplace” policy that the Christian group argues is necessary for the safety of the expecting mother, her baby, and clients the organization serves.

Sharmira responded by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed a lawsuit against United Bible.

According to the EEOC, Sharmira’s job required her to provide “housecleaning, light laundering, administering medication, cooking and assisting with personal hygiene and grooming,” all of which are rather simple tasks a pregnant woman can perform.

“An employer cannot dictate through a workplace policy whether a female employee continues to work during her pregnancy, even if the policy arises out of a desire to protect the pregnant employee,” said EEOC Houston District Director R.J. Ruff, Jr.

EEOC Regional Attorney Jim Sacher added that the Supreme Court has also ruled on this very issue:

“The Supreme Court has made clear that the decision whether a pregnant woman should work rests solely with her. She, and not the employer, is responsible for making decisions that affect her safety and that of her child. An employer’s policy which forces leave on a pregnant employee is exactly the type of conduct the Supreme Court has found to be unlawful.”

And US District Court Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore agreed and threw the book at United Bible Fellowship Ministries.

ThinkProgress reports:

“Gilmore found that United Bible “recklessly” failed to comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, race, religion, and other characteristics, by having the anti-pregnancy policy. The organization also has a contract with the Texas government, which requires it to comply with anti-discrimination laws. The court held that it failed to show that all pregnant women are unable to perform their duties safely. The judge awarded Johnson about $25,000 in back pay and overtime plus interest, as well as $50,000 in damages for emotional and mental suffering.”

Serves them right. For a supposed “Christian” organization to treat a pregnant woman in this way is outrageous. It sounds like United Bible Fellowship Ministries would rather their employees get an abortion. Because not having the means to support a child is just one of many reasons why some women would choose to terminate a pregnancy. One would think that a Christian organization would do everything in their power to make sure a pregnant employee is taken care of instead of tossing her out like a piece of trash. Clearly, they didn’t ask themselves what Jesus or any other decent human being would do.