A Catholic school in Italy has been found guilty of discriminating against a gay teacher.
The Daughters of Sacred Heart Institute, a Catholic school in Trento, northern Italy was fined 25,000 euros (roughly $28,500) and they were instructed to pay this amount to the unnamed female teacher. The school was found guilty of discriminating against this teacher who later came out as gay. The whole thing started when the concerned employee was quizzed by a nun regarding her sexual orientation. The school, in addition to the above amount, was also instructed to pay 1,500 euros separately to a civil rights association and a labor union.
The unnamed teacher told the concerned authorities that she was summoned to a meeting in July 2014 where she interacted with the Mother Superior. The latter asked her to clarify the rumors that she was in a live-in relationship with a female partner. When asked on which basis such personal questions are asked, the Mother Superior allegedly justified her queries by reminding the concerned teacher she was employed at a religious institution where there were children. The head of the institution also said that the children must be protected.
The teacher's response to questioning by the Mother Superior was that the former declined to discuss anything about her sexual orientation. The ostensible result of such an unwillingness to describe her orientation was the non-renewal of her job contract. When it came to explaining the actions, the school justified its HR policies by saying that the hiring decision was done to guard its educational project. It also accused the teacher of improper conduct.
The court, however, ruled otherwise. It said that the conduct of the school was marred by the assumption of the teacher being a lesbian. This made a negative impact on evaluation of her work by the school. It also damaged the reputation. The court went further and said the incident is an instance of collective discrimination and may discourage anyone who is probably interested to work in that school.
— Stand With Margie (@StandWithMargie) June 23, 2016
Alexander Schuster, the teacher’s lawyer, said this decision by Rovereto labor court clearly indicated that religious organizations cannot question employees when it came to the latter's private life. It was also not possible to discriminate against personal choices. The ruling said the use of contraceptives and options like abortion, co-habitation and divorce are counted as an intimate decision by a person and cannot be a matter of concern for the employer. The school's spokesperson was unavailable for comments.