EUGENE, Ore. — An assistant professor at a Christian university in Oregon has filed suit after she says that she was fired for becoming pregnant out of wedlock.
Cory Richardson is seeking $650,000 in damages from Northwest Christian University for what she believes in wrongful termination. Richards, 35, was fired last month, and is a single mother of two children from a previous relationship. She has been with her current boyfriend for twelve years.
According to the legal challenge filed in Lane County Court on Tuesday, Richards is upset that after she notified the university of her pregnancy, “[i]nstead of supporting her pregnancy, the university singled out Ms. Richardson as unmarried…” She says that she was given the ultimatum to either marry the father or break up with the man and proclaim her actions a “mistake.”
The Dean of Faculty, Dr. Dennis Lindsay allegedly told Richardson “that having a child out of wedlock while still continuing a relationship with the father was inconsistent with the university’s core values and mission and set a ‘bad example’ for the students,” the lawsuit reads.
When she refused to comply and told officials that she desired “privacy in her personal life,” her employment was terminated.
“NCU’s response was swift, blunt, and unequivocal,” the formal complaint reads. “According to [Lindsay], the issue was that she was going to be ‘showing’ soon and that many of the students and staff would start to ‘ask questions.'”
But Richardson believes that her termination is wrongful because she provided a “faith statement” upon her hiring four years ago as required by the university.
“Ms. Richardson’s faith is incredibly important to her,” the lawsuit states. “In her statement Ms. Richardson gives thanks to God ‘for all of the blessings in my life, the truths, the lessons, even the struggles because without those I would not truly appreciate the beautiful grace of God in my life that I have allowed to take hold of my heart and mind and body and soul.’”
“Richardson communicated with Dr. Lindsay several times to tell him that her decisions about her pregnancy and her relationship with her partner were personal matters that have nothing to do with her employment and exemplary performance at NCU,” the complaint outlines.
She is now alleging discrimination, as she asserts that men at the university who had fathered children out of wedlock were not similarly terminated. Richardson is seeking $500,000 in emotional damages and $150,000 in economic damages.
“This experience has been incredibly humiliating and confusing for Ms. Richardson,” the suit reads. “Already dealing with some complications with her pregnancy, while carrying her child Ms. Richardson now has suffered incredible emotional distress, economic loss, and pain and confusion regarding the actions by NCU and Dr. Lindsay.”
“NCU terminated Ms. Richardson because of her pregnancy, her gender, her marital status, and her religion.”
Northwest Christian University has not yet released a statement on the matter, but its website requires employees to posses “a vibrant and maturing Christian faith.”
Applicants must provide a “personal statement that addresses how a maturing Christian faith finds expression in the candidate’s personal life, family life, community life [and] local church membership,” among other areas.