Here in New Jersey, there are thousands of people who are employed by religious employers such as church-run schools. Those employers enjoy the benefit of the religious freedom protections established under New Jersey and federal law. That protection does not, however, give religious schools a license to engage in sex discrimination. If you’re a female teacher who‘s been disciplined or fired from your job at a religious school, and you believe your employer violated the laws against sex discrimination, you should talk to an experienced New Jersey employment attorney, who can help you assess how best to proceed.
Recently, a story made the news that involved not a teacher at a religious school but rather a parent. Back in February, a Sacramento area mom’s children were expelled from a local Catholic school, according to the New York Post. The children had done nothing wrong. They were expelled from the school after the mother’s OnlyFans account came to the attention of school authorities.
OnlyFans is an online content-sharing platform that allows content creators to earn money from the users who subscribe to their content. This mom used her OnlyFans account to post photos and videos in which she appeared nude or dressed in lingerie or revealing outfits. That content was what got her kids expelled from school.
This involved students and their parent, so the school’s action has a significant likelihood of being legally permissible. The First Amendment’s free exercise of religion clause gives religious entities, including Catholic schools, very broad leeway in terms of who they admit, reject or dismiss from their institutions.
However, if this woman had been a New Jersey teacher who got fired from her employment with a religious school – as opposed to a California mother whose children got expelled – for her content on OnlyFans or similar platforms, the outcome might have been different.
The difference between ‘disparate impact’ and ‘disparate treatment’
Under both federal and state law, sex discrimination can occur in one of two different ways: disparate impact or disparate treatment. Disparate impact sex discrimination occurs when an employer enacts a facially neutral policy that has the effect of disproportionately harming one sex over the other. For example, say a school required that all its teachers weigh at least 135 pounds. On its face, that policy does not discriminate based on sex. However, when you consider that nearly a quarter (23%) of all U.S. adult women weigh less than 135, while only 4% of men do, it becomes clear how such a policy would unfairly weed out far more women than it would men.
Disparate treatment is more individual. In terms of sex discrimination, it means that you were treated more poorly than another employee who was in a similar situation but was outside your sex/gender group.
For example, say you were a female teacher at a religious school who, like the California mom, published lingerie and “tasteful nude” photos and videos on OnlyFans, and that a male colleague of yours also had an OnlyFans account where he published images and videos depicting him nude or in a skimpy Speedo-style swimsuit. If you had evidence that school authorities knew about both OnlyFans accounts, but that your male colleague received only a private reprimand and a warning to delete his account and cease those activities, whereas you were fired immediately, then you very possibly could have a sex discrimination case based on the theory of disparate treatment.
Pregnancy discrimination cases involving religious employers sometimes operate in a similar way. The schools often assert that they are acting under their gender-neutral policy banning all teachers from engaging in premarital or extramarital sex but, a lot of times, the factual evidence indicates that exactly zero male teachers have been disciplined or fired for violations of the policy, and the only employees impacted were women who were unmarried and pregnant. When that happens, it potentially amounts to illegal sex discrimination.
There are many ways in which employees can be harmed when their employers discriminate based on sex. If that has happened to you, whether you were fired for your side gig on OnlyFans or for some completely different but discriminatory reason, then you should take action immediately. Reach out to the knowledgeable workplace discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates to learn more about what you can do to get what you deserve. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.