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Firing for ‘moral issue’ is legal but unwise

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Q. Our church day care center hired a woman who, we later found out, was living with a married man. Our director had “moral issues” with this situation and terminated her. I think the termination was illegal. Was it? —L.T., Florida

A. Employment discrimination laws prohibit all organizations (nonprofit and for-profit) from terminating employees on the basis of a protected class, such as age, race or gender. But an employee isn't granted any special protection simply because she lives with a married man. So it appears the firing would be legal, as your ex-employee wouldn't have a legal leg to stand on.

That said, while it may be legally OK to terminate employees with whom you have a moral concern, it's not necessarily a good idea. The thing to be careful about with nonperformance-related terminations is that your “moral” reason could be seen as an excuse for religious, racial, sexual or age discrimination.

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