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School drops teacher’s contract after son comes out

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Sharon Wright, a former teacher at Covenant Christian Academy in Harrisburg is suing the private school, claiming officials there made her life intolerable after her son revealed he is gay on a social media website.

Her lawsuit alleges the school violated the ADA when it refused to renew her teaching contract rather than explore reasonable accommodations for workplace stress that resulted from controversy about her son’s sexual orientation.

Last term, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that church-run institutions are exempt from federal discrimination laws if the employee met the definition of a minister. Covenant Christian has asserted that it considered Wright a minister. It remains to be seen whether her actual duties stand up to the test established in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Wright’s son was a student at the school when he revealed his sexual orientation. The school suspended him from classes until he “renounced his sin.” Ultimately, the school provided a proctor to teach the boy at home.

According to Wright’s complaint, however, the school’s administration and some co-workers began ostracizing her. Wright claims she negotiated an agreement that her son’s actions would not affect her job. She and her husband also opted against the school-advocated approach of trying to “deprogram” her son. The school stopped short of requiring her to renounce her son’s homosexuality as a sin in order to keep her job.

Despite this agreement, Wright claims she continued to receive unsolicited advice and condemnation from co-workers, leading to her stress. She requested intermittent leave to deal with the stress, and the school suggested she take a one-year sabbatical.

Instead, she filed her lawsuit.

When her contract came up for renewal, Covenant Christian refused to renew it. The school’s attorney refused to state why, but claimed her “perceived or actual disability had no impact on the decision not to renew her contract.”

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