Domestic Violence Victim Suing Catholic Diocese For Breach Of Contract
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Aired 9/10/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Carie Charlesworth, former elementary school teacher at Holy Trinity School in El Cajon.
Rachael Langston, staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center.
Statement From The Roman Catholic Diocese
"The opportunity to explain in court the issues surrounding the non-renewal of Mrs. Charlesworth’s annual employment agreement will allow both the school community and Mrs. Charlesworth a chance to bring closure to the extraordinary media attention that has been generated by her position. We are confident that when the court is able to review the decision, the protection and safety of children will be understood as the only path the school could have taken."
Director, Office for Schools
A woman who suffers domestic violence, leaves her husband, gets a divorce and files a restraining order against her ex-husband is generally acknowledged to be a brave survivor. But at one El Cajon school, such a woman is also known as unemployed.
Last week, Carie Charlesworth filed suit against Holy Trinity Catholic School for breach of contract. She says the school broke Canon Law when it did not renew her teaching contract. That happened in April after her physically abusive ex-husband came to the school. Administrators said he was a threat to the children.
The Charlesworth lawsuit arises at a time the state of California is trying to stop domestic violence victims from losing their jobs due to the actions of their abusive spouses. Senate Bill 400 will be up for a vote in the state senate tomorrow. The bill would protect employment rights of victims of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault.
The Legal Aid Society's Employment Law Center said many of California's domestic violence victims lose their jobs. The organization's 2011 study found that 40 percent of domestic violence victims reported being fired or feared losing their job because of domestic violence.
Rachael Langston is a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society's Employment Law Center which supports SB 400.
“This legislation is essential for ensuring the safety of all employees in the workplace and for protecting the economic security of survivors of abuse," Langston said. "Without the means to support themselves and their children, survivors often feel they have no choice but to remain in a violent relationship.”
But the new law might not have protected Charlesworth. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that religious organizations can claim ministerial exception to exempt them from employment discrimination laws.