Last June, Ramsay Solutions kicked Caitlin O’Conner to the curb. Although she claims she was fired for being pregnant, the company said she was terminated for having premarital sex, which goes against evangelical Ramsay’s company’s “righteous living” policy. Now, O’Conner, the former administrative assistant for Ramsay’s company, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Tennessee-based company because she was fired after telling her bosses that she was expecting, which she says violates the Family Medical Leave Act.
However, Ramsay’s company filed a motion to have the case dismissed on the grounds that she was not fired for being pregnant but for engaging in premarital sex, which resulted in pregnancy. The company, which works in the media and events industry, claims to have fired eight other employees for violating their ban on premarital sex since 2015. The company includes sex outside of marriage as a violation of one of their “core values,” as a corporation founded on religious values. Five of the eight people who were fired for having premarital sex were men, which seems to indicate that the company practices the policy against both men and women.
When O’Conner told her bosses that she was pregnant, she simultaneously told them that she had engaged in sex outside of wedlock. She was not married to her partner at the time of her announcement. Her bosses used the pregnancy announcement as a confession of premarital sex and axed her promptly.
Tennessee has a history of supporting religious corporations like Ramsay’s. The state is an “at-will state,” which means it empowers companies to fire employees for reasons that are not protected by law. Ramsay has taken advantage of this fact to weed out people he did not want to work for his corporation.
In a motion related to the lawsuit against Ramsay Solutions, the company said that it “does not maintain an exhaustive list of conduct that can lead to employee discipline because ‘it is neither practical nor required.”
The official rule, according to the company handbook, is the following:
“Should a team member engage in behavior not consistent with traditional Judeo-Christian values or teaching, it would damage the image and the value of our goodwill and our brand. If this should occur, the team member would be subject to review, probation, or termination.”
According to the lawsuit, the company handbook does not explicitly ban premarital sex. This omission is crucial to her making her case in court. She also fears that the company may be interpreting Christianity in a way that does not support the religion’s mission.
“Christianity should not be punitive, hateful, vengeful, or judgmental’ and that it does not ‘give a right to invade people’s private lives.”
Jennifer Bennett Shinall, a Vanderbilt University law school professor who focuses on discrimination, questions how Ramsay’s company is not biased toward women.
“It is certainly going to be more obvious because of pregnancy,” she said. “It is going to be more obvious if a woman is engaging in premarital sex than men.”
Do you think employees should be fired for having premarital sex?
Every time you share an AWM story, you help build a home for a disabled veteran.