The 11th Circuit explained that there are also consequences for violating the law. From Thomson Reuters:
Hamilton sued the school in 2010 under a federal law that bars discrimination based on pregnancy, seeking compensation for lost wages and emotional distress. A federal district court ruled in the school's favor before a trial, finding that Hamilton failed to establish that she was fired for her pregnancy rather than moral concerns over her premarital sex. But a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit disagreed on Wednesday.
The court pointed to evidence that the school was more concerned about Hamilton's request for maternity leave than her admission to having premarital sex. Ennis expressed concern over finding a replacement teacher, Hamilton testified.
"Hamilton has established a genuine issue of material fact about the reason that Southland fired her. The ultimate issue is one for a jury to decide," Judge Edward Carnes wrote for the unanimous panel, sending the case back to the lower court for a trial.
At a late stage in the appeal, Southland had tried to argue that the separation between church and state prevents courts from applying discrimination laws to churches' employment decisions. The school pointed to a recent Supreme Court ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which upheld religious groups' right to choose their ministerial employees without government interference.
But the 11th Circuit found that the school had waited too long to raise that argument and even admitted in a court filing that it did not consider Hamilton a "minister" with religious duties.
David Gibbs, a lawyer for Southland Christian School, said in a statement that he would defend the school's religious rights before the district court. The school "is protected under the First Amendment to hire and fire its ministerial employees according to its sincerely-held religious beliefs," he said.
I like the way Judge Carnes crisply starts the opinion (which was joined by Judges Martin and Jordan):
A woman of childbearing age was hired as a teacher at a small Christian school. Then she got pregnant, married, and fired. In that order. Then she filed a lawsuit. She lost on summary judgment. This is her appeal.