Pastor Denies Wrongful Termination Claims of Pregnant, Unwed Teacher

Reverend Tang, the pastor of a Leimert Park Catholic church testified that the decision not to renew the contract of one of teachers at the Transfiguration School, Kourtney Liggins, was a joint decision between himself and the interim principal of the school associated with the parish. He specified that the decision was not based on the fact that she was pregnant and unmarried. Liggins’ contract was not renewed in 2013. She filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court that specifically alleged wrongful termination in violation of public policy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation.

Rev. Tang claimed during his testimony that parents of students lodged complaints that the plaintiff was late to work regularly and that she was frequently on her phone sending text messages while she was in her classroom. He denied allegations that he held it against her that she was pregnant and not married, or for having children from a previous marriage that resulted in a divorce.

Liggins’ suit named the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the Transfiguration School, Reverend Tang and the principal of the school in September 2013, Evelyn Rickenbacker as Defendants. In the summer of 2012, Liggins was seven months pregnant. She alleges that at that point in time, Reverend Tang specifically advised her that her situation, being pregnant and not married, would “morally corrupt the impressionable teenagers at the Transfiguration School.

Liggins, who is now 48 years old, complained about the situation to school officials, but according to lawsuit documents their response was to tell her to pray about it.

Rickenbacker was removed from the list of defendants in the case, but Tang insists that he and Rickenbacker decided jointly not to renew Liggins’ teaching contract for 2013-14. Tang, pastor of the Church of Transfiguration, did note that the Catholic church frowns on women in Liggins’ situation, but stated that the official teachings of the Catholic Church have been interpreted in a pastoral sense. In fact, close to half of the parents at the school are single parents.

Prior to Rickenbacker filling the role, Liggins’ sister, Michele Yerima was principal of the Transfiguration School. She resigned in March 2013, but remained as acting principal. Tang cited Yerima’s involvement in the administration of the school as part of the problem with the case as he claims that many of the parents who lodged complaints about Liggins’ frequent tardiness did not leave their names in fear of retaliation from her sister. Tang claimed that parents were afraid of her; that was her reputation.

If you have been wrongfully terminated or if you need to discuss instances of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.