Griffin v. Sisters of St. Francis, No. 06-3312, 7th Cir., June 6, 2007.
Sister Anita to plaintiffs: No lap dances on the tractor!
Sometimes, it's not about the torture, or the wiretapping, or the fascist threat. Sometimes, it's just about the giggles.
And the beefalo. And the nuns who raise the beefalo.
And the dude who allegedly couldn't keep his mouth and his hands to himself, so the nuns allegedly had to let all the female interns go (you read that right). And the female intern who liked the dude.
And whether a man can be discriminated against under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Plaintiffs are Griffin, the farm manager, and Yarden, a volunteer, and, later (and at Griffin's urging), employee of the farm, who began dating Griffin. They were fired, and sued, claiming that the reason was Yarden's pregnancy. They lost on summary judgment at the District Court and the Seventh Circuit affirms today, in an opinion that will make you forget about the war for a few minutes and just feel really silly.
For example: Sister Anita
approached Griffin and Yarden about what she perceived as the couple's lack of discretion and its effect on the morale of other workers at the farm. She emphasized the importance of their being "discreet" in their personal relationship. When Griffin challenged [her] to explain what she meant, she replied that, for example, driving the tractor around the farm with Yarden on his lap, as she had seen him do, was not discreet.
Opinion at 2.
The serious legal issue is Griffin's claim of protection under the PDA. The PDA amends Title VII to define discrimination "because of sex" to include discrimination "because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." 42 U.S.C. 2000e(k).
Congress passed the act in 1976 in response to the Supreme Court's holding in General Electric Co. v. Gilbert, 429 U.S. 125 (1976) that discrimination based on sex did not extend to pregnancy -- in other words, you could be fired for getting pregnant.
The appeals court today makes it clear that Griffin's claim -- that he was fired for getting someone else pregnant -- might fail on factual grounds. But the judges kick the claim as a matter of law. In order to state a claim under the PDA, you have to allege that the pregnancy-discrimination occurred as a form of sex-discrimination.
Interestingly, the judges allow that it is possible for men to face pregnancy-related sex discrimination: In a 1983 Supreme Court case, male employees sued, claiming that their pregnant wives did not qualify for the same benefits as female employees who became pregnant -- they won.
Oh, yeah, the beefalo. Do visit the nuns' farm's website. They actually seem very sweet.
Tags: law, policy, Seventh Circuit, appellate practice, Title VII, civil rights, pregnancy, lap dances, tractors, farm equipment, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Sisters of Saint Francis, Gilbert v. Sisters of Saint Francis, Franciscans, Oldenburg, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, .