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Michigan nonprofit faces lawsuit over firing

A prominent Michigan nonprofit faces litigation after a former employee claims she lost her job with the Christian organization due to the failure of her marriage. The woman sued InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in a Michigan district court, accusing the corporation of wrongfully terminating her in 2011 after she was unsuccessful in reconciling her marriage and divorcing her husband.

IVCF, which operates student ministries on college campuses across the country, does require employees to abide by its Separation and Divorcing Staff Policy when they encounter marital problems. The wrongful discharge lawsuit alleges that the woman closely followed the policy, undergoing counseling and regularly speaking with her managers regarding her progress. Her supervisors had granted her a leave of absence to work on her marriage, though she said IVCF policy does necessarily not forbid divorce.

The lawsuit claims that the plaintiff was fired for failing to fix her marriage despite comprehensively following the separation policy, while other employees were met with no similar action when their own marriages failed. She claims to have received a letter from a supervisor telling her that her employment would be terminated after management determined she had not made "enough progress to continue the [reconciliation] process" further.

The ICVF's organizational polices state that it values the sanctity of marriage and encourages its workers to seek help when dealing with marital problems. As a religious organization, it reserves the right take action when it determines an employee did not put enough effort into repairing his or her marital relationship or is divorcing a spouse for a reason the ICVF finds unacceptable. Similarly, an employee whose divorce affects his or her work performance in an appreciable way will likely face discipline.

Companies or organizations formed along religious or other ideological tenets often face unique challenges when dealing with employees whose actions or beliefs fall outside of those values. Michigan entities fitting this description who have been accused of wrongful termination or discrimination, or face other employment litigation should contact a qualified attorney for assistance.

Source:, "Broken marriage led to woman's unfair firing at Christian nonprofit, lawsuit" John Agar, Oct. 10, 2013

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