Gay teachers take legal action after being fired

By : Jamie Hyman
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Winter Park – An attorney is demanding that a lesbian couple – fired from a Winter Park pre-school allegedly for being gay – get their jobs back, plus an apology and compensation for damages.

Jaclyn Pfeiffer, 29, was a teacher at Aloma Methodist Early Childhood Learning Center and said she was let go from the school after her girlfriend, KellyBardier, began working as a substitute at the same school and rumors of their relationship began.Bardier, 33, was also released from her part-time job as a substitute teacher.

Bardier said Pfeiffer had worked at the school for two years. She said they kept their relationship quiet at work but on March 18, Pfeiffer was called into the director’s office to discuss it.

“At the end of the day, when [the couple]could finally talk, we realized neither wanted to work in a place that would give you that kind of ultimatum,” Bardier said. “They said the only way to not get fired is to not live your life this way [as a gay couple].”

Pfeiffer was terminated March 19, and Bardier said they received a number of phone calls that morning because the school sent a letter to parents and teachers announcing Pfeiffer’s firing. Bardier said when they went to the school later that day to pick up Pfeiffer’s things, they were”made to use the back door, weren’t allowed to go in the same door as the parents. [The school] didn’t want us talking to anyone.”

A week later, when they went to pick up final paychecks, Bardier said the school issued Pfeiffer a termination letter stating she was fired for not showing up for three days.

“They fired her illegally, realized they did something wrong, then attempted to try to fix it and made up a false reason to fire her legally,” she said.

The couple is working with Orlando attorney Mary Meeks on legal recourse. Meeks said the first step is a demand letter alleging that the terminations violate the Orange County Human Rights Ordinance and the federal Civil Rights Act, not to mention the Methodist Church’s own stance on LGBT discrimination.

“The terminations of Jaclyn and Kelly were nothing more than blatant acts of homophobic discrimination, proscribed even by the Methodist church’s own governing principles,” the letter reads. Read the full letter: ltr to eclc

According to the United Methodist Church website, the church opposes ” all forms of violence or discrimination based on gender, gender identity, sexual practice, or sexual orientation,” and “Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.”

However, a statement released by Gretchen Hastings, the director of communications for Florida Conference UMC, does not underscore the national UMC principles.

“We want to respect the need for personnel matters to be handled with confidentiality, but we can say decisions regarding their employment involve long standing policies intended to the reflect the beliefs and values of this congregation,” Hastings’ statement reads. “These are policies applicable to all employees.”

Meeks said her plans include an EEOC claim and maybe a lawsuit if the school doesn’t retract the terminations, issue apologies, and compensate for their damages.

“[Pfeiffer] was excellent and treated those kids like they’re her own,” Bardier said, adding that she’s read speculation online that Pfeiffer must have been fired for another reason besides her sexuality. “There was no other reason – they were like, we literally can’t have you working here if you’re gay.”

Pfeiffer said that before the controversy, the director had told her that she was one of the best teachers of two-year-olds the school had ever had.

“I don’t think about the job, but whenever I think about the kids, I still cry now, two weeks later,” Pfeiffer said. “I still miss them.”

The Aloma Methodist Early Childhood Learning Center has not returned calls for comment.

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