Court Nails Historic Synagogue for Firing Pregnant Bride

MANHATTAN (CN) – The Second Circuit revived discrimination claims by a woman who says the nation’s oldest Sephardic Jewish synagogue fired her for being pregnant at her wedding.

Alana Shultz brought the underlying lawsuit against Congregation Shearith Israel in 2015, accusing them of having “failed miserably in their attempt to merge traditional Judaism with modern civil laws.”

After more than a decade as a program director for the Orthodox Spanish and Portuguese congregation, which was founded in 1654, Shultz allegedly faced a cold reception when she returned from her honeymoon that June visibly pregnant.

She says the congregation tried to fire her but quickly reinstated her job once she retained a lawyer.

Though a federal judge found that this mooted Schultz’s claims, dismissing the case last year, the Second Circuit reversed Thursday.

Writing for a three-judge panel, U.S. Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch says rescinding the termination here does not negate the fact that an adverse employment action already occurred.

“Accordingly, we conclude that the notice of termination itself constitutes an adverse employment action, even when the employer later rescinds the termination,” the 25-page opinion states.

Lynch emphasized that the synagogue also waited two weeks to rescind the termination, giving the six-and-a-half-month-pregnant Shultz “ample time to experience the dislocation of losing employment at a particularly vulnerable time.”

Vincent Avery, an attorney for the synagogue with Akerman LLP, said his client was considering “all legal options” after the ruling.

While not letting the synagogue off the hook for terminating Schultz, the reinstatement of her position could mitigate damages, the court found.

Shultz’s retaliation and hostile work environment claims remain dismissed because the court said she has not proven materially adverse actions during the two weeks when her job was in limbo.

Schultz’s attorney Jeanne Christensen applauded the reversal.

“No female employee should have to fear termination because she becomes pregnant,” Christensen said in a statement. “Regardless of Shearith Israel’s place in the Jewish community, the Congregation is not free to flout federal anti-discrimination laws.”

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