Church Sued by Employee who Resigned for Cohabitating with Boyfriend Wins in Court
Feb 24, 2022
by: Brenda Ordonez
MADISON, Wis. (WFRV) – A Madison church will be able to continue requiring its employees to share and live out its religious beliefs.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in favor of Capitoland Christian Center Church after a former employee filed a lawsuit against the church back in 2015 alleging that officials had committed marital status discrimination.
According to a court filing, the complainant, Sandra Sandoval, was hired as a cook for Capitoland Christian Center Church’s daycare program in 2014.
When she started, Sandoval, like all other Capitoland Christian Center Church employees, reportedly signed a “Statement of Affirmation and Agreement.”
Part of this agreement entailed that all employees refrain from “co-habitation with members of the opposite gender outside of marriage” as a condition of their employment.
Sandoval was found to be in violation of these terms a year later when it was discovered that she was living with her boyfriend. Shortly after, Sandoval reportedly stopped coming to work and returned her employee key card and belongings.
Sandoval alleged that she had stopped coming to work because she believed she had been fired while church officials claimed that she resigned due to the fact she didn’t come to work for several days and then returned her things.
Sandoval later filed a lawsuit against the church alleging that it had committed marital status discrimination.
After further investigation into this claim, the court concluded on Thursday that Capitoland Christian Center Church did not engage in marital-status discrimination when it informed Sandoval that the church’s religious beliefs prohibited her from living with her boyfriend, a condition of employment which she had previously agreed to uphold.
March 1, 2022
By Michael Gryboski, Mainline Church Editor
An appeals court has ruled that a Wisconsin church daycare employee who left her job over a policy barring unmarried employees from cohabitating was not wrongfully terminated.
Sandra Sandoval sued Capitoland Christian Center Church, Inc., claiming the institution ended her employment because she violated an employment agreement that prohibited workers from cohabitating outside of marriage. Sandoval contends that the Madison-based church discriminated against her due to her marital status.
In a per curiam decision released last Thursday, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals panel —which included judges JoAnne Kloppenburg, Rachel Graham, and Jennifer Nashold — ruled against Sandoval, upholding a prior ruling from the Madison Equal Opportunities Commission.
According to the decision, Sandoval signed a “Statement of Affirmation and Agreement,” where she agreed to refrain from “co-habitation with members outside of marriage” as a condition of employment.
Sandoval was hired to cook for the church daycare center in 2014. The fact that she lived with her boyfriend was not brought up until January of the following year.
…When Sandoval returned to work four days after her conversation with her supervisor to hand in her keycard, she claims she was told, “I could not return to work unless I got married, and if I didn’t, I could not return to work.”
Based on testimony from Sandoval and her former employer, the panel determined that “Sandoval’s noncompliance with the Agreement was ongoing, [and] Capitoland had not yet imposed any ultimatum on Sandoval.”
…The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal nonprofit representing Capitoland, celebrated the ruling that reaffirmed the earlier decision against Sandoval.
“Every church has a statement of faith, and it is not only reasonable, but expected for a church to require its employees to agree with and follow its religious beliefs,” asserted ADF Senior Counsel Jeremiah Galus in a statement released Thursday. “We’re pleased the Wisconsin Court of Appeals agreed and that Capitoland Christian Center Church will be free to continue its great work in the Madison community.”