Business owners have a responsibility to comply with state and federal employment laws. In general, laws that govern discrimination, harassment and employment contracts are aimed at protecting employees from being unfairly mistreated, fired or denied a position. However, because Colorado is an at-will employment state, a person can generally be fired at any time as long as there is no ill motive in the termination.
A person may feel as though a termination was wrongful, but in many cases, an employer believes he or she is justified in firing a worker who violates the terms of a contract or company polices. If a company's employment policies conflict with state or federal guidelines, however, people can end up involved in a costly lawsuit.
Recently, a woman in another state filed a lawsuit against her former employer and claims that they unfairly fired her for engaging in premarital sex and getting pregnant. Her former employer, a Christian college, responded to the claims by reiterating that the woman had been in violation of a community covenant contract that all staff members and students at the school are required to sign. According to the contract, everyone at the school is expect to share traditional Christian beliefs, which include abstaining from premarital sex, adultery and other behaviors they consider to be sexually immoral. According to reports, when the school learned that the unmarried woman was pregnant, they fired her for violating the terms of the contract by having premarital sex.
However, it is being argued that the terms in the school's contract violate state and federal laws and therefore the woman's termination was wrongful. Claims of discrimination based on marital status, gender and pregnancy are cited in the woman's lawsuit against the school.
In order to avoid similar legal disputes, company owners should make sure their policies and contracts are legally enforceable and do not violate the rights of employees. With appropriate management and operations policies in place, a company can prevent lengthy and costly employment disputes.
Source: The Denver Channel, "Pregnant woman says San Diego Christian College fired her for having premarital sex," Feb. 26, 2013
- Our Denver law firm works with employers and employees facing a situation similar to the one described in this post. For more information, please visit our page on employment litigation.