NASW disappointed by ruling upholding firing of pregnant Catholic school teacher

Aug 25, 2023

young teacher with child in art classroom

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) in August 2021, along with 26 other organizations committed to civil rights, filed an amicus brief in the New Jersey Supreme Court in support of Victoria Crisitello.

Crisitello was an elementary school art teacher who was terminated by her employer, a Catholic elementary school, after she became pregnant while unmarried.

The school argued that despite Cristello’s actual job duties as an art teacher, the “ministerial exception” to workplace civil rights laws under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination applied.

Cristello did not teach religion or religious texts or counsel her students in prayer or other religious activities. In the amicus brief, NASW argued the Catholic school’s application of the ministerial exception was overbroad and would provide a roadmap for the more than 600 New Jersey schools with religious affiliations to evade workplace civil rights laws.

The New Jersey Supreme Court on August 14, 2023 issued a decision agreeing with the Catholic school and upholding the religious tenets exception to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. This expansion of the ministerial exception risks threatening the civil rights of thousands of New Jersey employees.

NASW advocates for effective enforcement of anti-discrimination laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination in the workplace.

Women, people of color, older workers, workers with disabilities, LGBTQ workers, immigrant workers, and those with multiple and intertwining identities, continue to face employment discrimination at alarming rates, despite decades of civil rights protections.

Any curtailing of these protections severely harms these communities. It was our hope that the court would understand that these groups would be at risk for further discrimination in the workplace through this unwarranted expansion of the ministerial exception. 

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