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Fired for being an atheist? What an EEOC claim could mean for Middlebury Schools

A former German teacher says he was fired because he’s an atheist. How could this situation play out and how will Middlebury Schools be affected?

Posted on June 16, 2014 at 2:46 p.m.

Middlebury Community Schools is cooperating with a federal organization after a former employee said he was fired because of his religious beliefs.

Former German teacher Kevin Pack, who was fired in April, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming he was fired because he is an atheist, according to the Goshen News.

School officials have said Pack was let go because of poor performance.

It’s illegal for employers to make employment decisions based on a person’s religious beliefs in the United States, and the EEOC is one group that handles employment discrimination claims.

The Elkhart Truth spoke with local attorney Tim Shelly and Middlebury Schools Superintendent Jane Allen about what will happen now.

Shelly says an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claim can be filed by anyone who believes they've been unlawfully discriminated against in the workplace.

Most people who file an EEOC claim get what's called a "right to sue" letter from the EEOC, he said.

"In a vast majority of cases that’s what happens," Shelly said. "That letter allows the person to find an attorney who would represent him in a traditional lawsuit."

After that letter is issued, one of four things usually happens, Shelly said.

1. The former employee could decide not to sue.

2. He could find an attorney, sue his former employer and lose.

3. He could sue and win, in which case the employer would likely have to pay some amount of money.

4. He could sue and the judge could encourage the matter to settle through mediation between the former employee and his former employer.

Jane Allen, superintendent, said it’s not yet clear how the school corporation will be affected by Pack’s claim.

Middlebury Schools, like many school corporations, has property and liability insurance that could cover attorney fees, at least in part, if that’s required.

But Allen doesn't yet know what kind of attorney services, if any, would be needed in this situation. She said the school corporation is providing the EEOC with any information it needs in its investigation and waiting on direction.

The corporation first received notification of Pack’s claim in April and at that time they expected to hear back within 60 days, Allen said.

She also added that what’s happening doesn't change the school’s task of educating local students.

“Our school corporation...we've gone through a lot of things and we try not to let things like this affect us,” she said. 

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks




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