Pregnancy cost her job, woman's suit claims

An Augusta woman is suing First Academy Christian School and Daycare on the grounds that she was unfairly fired for becoming pregnant outside of wedlock.

The suit filed Dec. 19 in U.S. District Court says that the school announced a policy in March 2008 that prohibited continued employment if the employee had an “outside pregnancy.” The plaintiff, Stephanie Ward, was hired around March 2009 to teach 3-year-olds at the school, which operates under the umbrella of First Baptist Church Gracewood.

Ward said she took a raise at the end of the school year and moved on to teach the 4-year-olds in the fall; on Sept. 30, 2009, she discovered she was pregnant. The lawsuit says that Ward did not believe it was in her best interest to get married and that she had a right to protect her unborn child without having to give up her ability to support herself.

“Although Plaintiff wanted and needed her job, she was opposed to having an abortion, which is an effect and consequence of such a policy,” the lawsuit says.

Ward informed her supervisor, Debbie Ashley, that she was pregnant on Oct. 5, 2009. She was fired two weeks later after training her replacement, according to the lawsuit.

On Jan. 19, 2010, Ward filed paperwork with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming gender and pregnancy discrimination. The federal agency issued a notice of right to sue Sept. 21, 2011, with a finding that there was reasonable cause to believe some or all federal statutes were violated, according to court papers.

The lawsuit alleges that the school’s pregnancy policy discriminates against women. It requests a permanent injunction against the school forbidding them from further enacting the policy, along with back pay and punitive damages.

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