Pregnant Bride Can’t Sue Historic Synagogue

     MANHATTAN (CN) — A woman who claims that the nation’s oldest Sephardic Jewish synagogue fired her for being pregnant at her wedding does not have a viable case for discrimination because she got her job back, a federal judge ruled.
     Hours before Yom Kippur last year, Alana Shultz sued her former employers at Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan Federal Court, accusing them of having “failed miserably in their attempt to merge traditional Judaism with modern civil laws.”
     Shultz spent more than a decade as a program director for the Orthodox Spanish and Portuguese congregation, which was founded in 1654.
     When she got married last summer, Shultz says that she was 19 weeks pregnant, and that she told her supervisor two days later that she needed time off for her honeymoon.
     The lawsuit said that the congregation’s Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and board member Michael Lustig had a cold reaction to the news.
     “Shockingly, rather than demonstrating inclusion and tolerance, [the congregation] callously fired Ms. Shultz for her apparent failure to adhere to their religious morals, at a time when she was at her most vulnerable — six and a half months pregnant, visibly showing and in critical need of medical insurance,” the 13-page complaint said.
     Shultz alleged that the congregation attempted to “silence” her by having her sign a releasing waiving litigation for a “paltry six weeks of pay,” but that it offered her job back once she retained a lawyer.
     Her lawsuit characterized this reversal as a “thinly veiled attempt to mitigate [their] exposure for their blatant discriminatory and unlawful conduct.”
     On Monday, U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken found the synagogue’s motives were immaterial to a civil lawsuit.
     “To the extent that plaintiff’s counsel is assuming that a ‘bona fide’ rescission of a termination must be sincere or heartfelt – in the sense that the employer must subjectively want to rescind the termination and retain the employee – that assumption is unfounded under the law,” he wrote in an 18-page opinion. “An employer may validly rescind a termination merely to avoid liability, even begrudgingly, so long as the employer restores the employee to her position with no material change or consequence.”
     Once Shultz got her job back, she was no worse off than when the ordeal began, the judge noted.
     “Shultz does not allege that the congregation changed her title, salary, or benefits, nor does she allege any gap in her pay,” Oetken’s ruling states.
     Shultz will have another opportunity to revise her allegations by Sept. 15.
     The congregation applauded the ruling in a statement delivered through its attorney Vincent Avery, from the Manhattan-based firm Akerman LLP.
     “We take pride in our talented, hard-working, and dedicated staff,” the statement said. “We continue to be committed to a supportive workplace that is compliant with the law, and are pleased that the court granted our motion, dismissing plaintiff’s lawsuit, in its Aug. 15 decision.”
     Schultz’s lawyer Douglas Wigdor said that he and his client are “weighing our options.”
     “The matter is far from over,” he added.

%d bloggers like this: