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Guidance counselor sues school over wife's pregnancy

Employees have undertaken civil litigation when their employers have penalized them over their pregnancies and other family matters. In an unusual case, however, a school guidance counselor filed a wrongful termination lawsuit earlier this month and claimed that his school district fired him because his wife gave birth to twins.

The plaintiff claimed that the Atascadero School District hired him as a counselor under a one-year contract in August of 2015. It also gave him the possibility of contract renewal. The counselor learned that his wife was pregnant in September of 2015 and told one of his co-workers in November. The colleague then informed the vice principal who was the plaintiff's supervisor.

The vice principal allegedly made inappropriate comments to the plaintiff, including inferences that he was unable to pay for the size of his family and inquiries about his wife's stay-at-home lifestyle.

The counselor went on family leave near the time of his children's birth in April. Later that month, he met with the vice principal and the school principal. The vice principal reversed his earlier assurances that the counselor's contract would be renewed and said that the school needed someone who worked harder than ever and was having the time of his life. He also told him that one on the newborn children was ugly, according to the allegations.

The vice principal later called the plaintiff during his leave and told him that someone else was being hired and that his contract was not being renewed because he left a meeting 15 minutes early. His contract expired at the end of his leave in June. The school district did not contact him about another job application that he submitted.

In his lawsuit, filed with the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court, the counselor charges that the school district engaged in pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination in violation of the California Family Rights Act. He claimed that the school did not accommodate him, did not notify him about other job opportunities and engaged in harassment and retaliation because of his wife's pregnancy. The school district denied the charges. It said that it complied with the state's Family Rights Act and promoted a respectful workplace.

Source: The San Luis Obispo Tribune, "Former Atascadero school counselor says he was terminated because of his wife's pregnancy," Lindsey Holder, Nov. 19, 2017

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