In February, an 80-year-old Ohio woman died. Her obituary mentioned that she was survived by her daughter Carla Hale, as well as her daughter's partner, Julie. And with that, Carla says, she lost her job.
Hale is a longtime teacher at Bishop Watterson High School, a Catholic school in Columbus. An anonymous parent saw that Hale had listed the name of her female partner, and expressed her strong disapproval in a letter to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, Hale told the Columbus Dispatch. Soon after, she was fired.
In the past week, current and former students have rallied in support of Hale, who taught physical education at the school for 19 years, and a Change.org petition calling for her reinstatement has received over 12,700 signatures so far, almost all of them describing Hale as a mentor and role model.
One girl, Samantha Pfaff, recalls the time that she told Hale that her sister was very ill, and Hale collected money from other teachers and students to give her family a basket of gifts.
Many of the comments also accuse the school of violating Catholic teachings of tolerance, respect and compassion. A March poll by Quinnipiac University found that a majority of American Catholics -- 54 percent -- support gay marriage, more than Americans overall. Fifty-two percent also said that church leaders were out of step with the views of Catholics in America today.
Hale is only the latest in a string of teachers who have been fired from Catholic schools for purported violations of church doctrine. In February, an assistant principal at another Ohio Catholic school reportedly was fired over comments that he made on his blog in support of gay marriage. And in March 2012, a music teacher at a Missouri Catholic school claimed he was fired for his plans to marry his gay partner of two decades.
It is completely legal under federal law to fire someone for being gay. However 21 states and many localities have laws and ordinances that prohibit employers from discriminating against their workers on the basis of sexual orientation. That includes Columbus, where Hale taught. But according to the Dispatch, the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators and the Columbus diocese have a contract that states that teachers can be terminated for "immorality" or "serious unethical conduct."
Even if discrimination against homosexuality was illegal in the workplace, Hale's firing might not be. In 2012, the Supreme Court determined that employment laws had a "ministerial exception." Because of the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom, religious institutions are allowed to discriminate against employees, as long as those employees are ministers. Who qualifies as a minister, however, wasn't precisely defined.
In April 2012, an Indiana woman sued a Catholic school for allegedly firing her for undergoing fertility treatments. She claimed that it was sex and disability discrimination, and that she wasn't exempt from the protection since she didn't teach religious classes, have a religious title, wasn't ordained and wasn't required to have religious training. And in February a San Diego woman sued the Christian college where she had worked as an administrator after she was fired for being pregnant before marriage.
Hale's attorney told the Dispatch that they're considering legal options. In the meantime, Hale has just been coping with the overwhelming response. "It's amazing that they've come together and rallied around this situation," she said. "I'm in awe of them."
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Firing long-serving employees over email is pretty cowardly and insensitive. But you probably lose an extra 5 trillion karma points if those long-serving employees are soldiers. Due to an alleged "administrative error" several dozen British soldiers, who had each served for over 20 years, including one fighting in Afghanistan, were told that their services, or rather their service, would not longer be required. The email advised the troops to "start planning your resettlement."
Prime Minister David Cameron felt that "the way this has been handled is completely unacceptable," according to a spokesman. Jim Murphy, shadow defense secretary for the opposition Labour Party had stronger words, calling it "callous, cold-hearted, souless."
When a partially nude pic of Miss California Carry Prejean surfaced, Donald Trump stood by her side. "We are in the 21st century. We have determined the pictures taken are fine" and in some cases "lovely," said at a press conference in May 2009. He also defended her answer to a pageant question about same-sex marriage (she's not into it).
Less than a month later, Prejean got a call. It was radio and TV host Billy Bush, and he was wondering whether she had a statement. You know, about her losing her crown and her dreams being dashed in a hugely public and humiliating fall from grace?
"It is so bizarre to me how this has turned out," Prejean told Fox News. "I just couldn't believe it. I was so shocked, I didn't know what to say."
Sarah Silverman was on "Saturday Night Live" for a year, but only one of her sketches actually made it to dress rehearsal, and none got on the air. She claims that she was notified of her dismissal by fax, which isn't very cool now, and still wasn't very cool in 1994. She parodied the experience on "The Larry Sanders Show," in which the chauvinist head writer blackballs her jokes because she's a lady.
Getting fired is a bummer. Getting fired for being tired all the time when you're pregnant is a bigger bummer. Being told that you have to give back your uniform shirts or pay $30 is pretty wounding. And then bumping into your bright-eyed replacement on the way out is like pouring five pounds of salt in that wound.
That's what happened to one woman in East Hartford, Conn., who worked at Bell Foods grocery store. As she writes on her blog, she immediately went to her car, grabbed the dirty work shirts, and threw them on her supervisor's desk. Unfortunately, her supervisor wasn't sitting there. She was giving the new girl a tour.
By the age of 21, Chris Colfer had two Emmy nominations and ranked among Time's 100 most influential people in the world last year for his groundbreaking portrayal of a struggling gay teen on the primetime series "Glee." So he was a little surprised when he discovered that the show had tweeted that next season would be his last on the show. "I don't necessarily want to leave so soon, but I mean, it's fine," he told Access Hollywood. "It's what it is. And all things come to an end."
The show's creator, Ryan Murphy, had a different story. They'd been in talks about it for a while, he said, given that Colfer's character was graduating from high school, and that they were planning a spin-off. Annoyed about Colfer's comments, Murphy said that they were scrapping the spin-off idea. Colfer will be back on the show next season, however, as a high school graduate somehow integrated into high school plotlines with the logic-suspending grace of a truly great sitcom.
Sixteen-year-old Chelsea Taylor weekend job at a cafe called Cookies after she lost a ten-pound note (about $16). She was fired by a manager in a Facebook message riddled with the textspeak abbreviations that might be appropriate for dishing about the cute boy next to you in math class, but a little less appropriate for cutting someone off from their source of income.
"Sorry to send u a message like this but bin tryin to ring u but gettin no joy," she wrote. "I had to tell the owner bout u losin that tenner coz obviously the till was down at the end of the day. she wan't very pleased at all and despite me trying to persuade her otherwise she said I have to let u go. I'm really sorry."
Taylor shrugged it off with a resilient "oki x," but her mom wasn't too pleased, and had a little talk with the Daily Mail.
Back in 2010, Karen Ogilvie, a bartender in Dundee, Scotland, slept in and missed the start of her evening shift. She'd worked 11 hours the day before, four of them spent alone, so she couldn't even go to the bathroom, she claimed. Later that evening, she got a text. Bye-bye. Ogilvie replied with a few texts asking for her job back, but got no reply.
But things turned out rosy for Ogilvie. In October 2010, she was awarded the sum of 14,355 pounds ($22,461) by an employment tribunal, which found that her dismissal was "procedurally and substantively unfair."