Q: I work for a church in the state of FL. Is the church permitted to terminate my employment based on my marriage status?
I have been employed with this organization for eight years, have always provided excellent delivery. My boss recently found out I had an affair, at that time I was given specific stipulations for continued employment based on the understanding that the moral code of the church had been broken when I participated in an affair. One of those stipulation is that I must be actively pursuing, and participate in the outlined stipulations as defined to me, a healthy marriage. Leaving my husband or not completing any of these stipulations (counseling etc) will result in immediate termination.
Under Section 760.10 of the Fla. Civil Rights Act, it is generally unlawful to terminate an employee based on marital status (for example, if someone decides to get a divorce); however, the law exempts religious institutions as follows: "This section shall not apply to any religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society which conditions opportunities in the area of employment or public accommodation to members of that religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society or to persons who subscribe to its tenets or beliefs. This section shall not prohibit a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society from giving preference in employment to individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporations, associations, educational institutions, or societies of its various activities."
Therefore, the church likely can get away with the "our-way-or-the-highway" conditions imposed upon you. To be in a more fair working environment, you may want see if someone at the church is willing to give you a good letter of reference and then seek employment elsewhere.
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