EUGENE — Did a Christian university here act appropriately in firing a faculty member for becoming pregnant out of wedlock?
Coty Richardson, the faculty member, has her own strong opinion on it.
So she’s suing Northwest Christian University for $650,000.
As reported by both The Oregonian and Eugene Register-Guard newspapers, Richardson filed the lawsuit early last month in Lane County Circuit Court following her July 22 dismissal.
Alleging that the university violated her civil and employment rights by wrongfully terminating her, Richardson, 35, of Springfield, seeks $150,000 reimbursement for economic losses and $500,000 for emotional distress and other noneconomic damages.
She had worked nearly four years for the university, most recently as a full-time assistant professor teaching exercise science, and had received good evaluations for her job performance, she claimed.
NCU declined to comment to the two newspapers about the lawsuit. Christian News Northwest also contacted the university, and the school responded that because “the issue has escalated to a legal one and is a personnel matter,” comment in the media would not be appropriate.
Richardson is expecting a baby in November. According to the lawsuit, she informed Dennis Lindsay, the university’s vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, in May about her pregnancy. Richardson claims that her supervisors quickly gave her an “unequivocal” ultimatum — either get married immediately or declare her pregnancy a mistake and end her relationship with her romantic partner of 12 years.
Richardson is a single mother to two children but the child she is now carrying is the first with her boyfriend, who lives in Washington, the lawsuit states.
According to the document, Richardson had discussed marriage with her partner but had decided for financial, emotional and practical reasons that now wasn’t the time, and that she felt it was acceptable as a devout follower of Christ to wait until a more appropriate time to wed. But in the termination letter, Lindsay stated that sexual relations outside of marriage was contrary to NCU’s core values. She also claimed in the lawsuit that Lindsay had previously told her that a continued unmarried relationship with the baby’s father would set a bad example for the university’s students.
The suit also alleges that Richardson suffered discrimination because of her gender, and also that male employees of the university were not fired after their partners became pregnant out ot wedlock.