Several days after the conversation, school administrators informed Hamilton that rather than receiving maternity leave, she was being fired because she had sinned by engaging in premarital sex. According to the appeals court, Mr. Ennis told her: “There are consequences for disobeying the word of God.”
Hamilton hired a lawyer and sued, arguing that the real issue behind her dismissal was the school’s displeasure over her request for maternity leave.
Under Title VII, there is no right to engage in premarital sex. But the civil rights law does protect a right to become pregnant without facing discrimination in the workplace.
Nonetheless, a federal judge in Orlando threw the case out, ruling that Hamilton had failed to show that her treatment was different than any other teachers at the school.
In reversing that decision, appeals court Judge Edward Carnes said there was enough circumstantial evidence to raise a reasonable inference of intentional discrimination by the school.
“Hamilton presented evidence that, in making the decision to fire her, Southland was more concerned about her pregnancy and her request to take maternity leave than about her admission that she had premarital sex,” Judge Carnes wrote. “She testified at deposition that, after she told the Ennises about her pregnancy but before she told them she had conceived before getting married, John Ennis ‘put his head back and he said, we feared something like this would happen.’ “
Hamilton was reportedly told that she would have to take the entire year off because it was difficult for school administrators to replace a teacher on maternity leave after the school year started.