She had no negative feedback, or reviews, She was forced to sign a resignation letter or be fired and have negative references. She was never notified of areas to improve in. It was specifically stated with two other witnesses that the reason for her dismissal was because she was separated, and it would be "bad for the church." There were NO other issues with her employment, and that was specifically stated when they forced her to resign. This is a very large and prominent church in the area. We have never sued, or been apart of a law suit before, but this is morally wrong.
1) Is this legal discrimination since she works for a church?
2) Is it legal for an employer to threaten a bad reference to force a resignation?
3) Does my wife have any legal recourse against this church?
Your wife needs to consult with an experienced employment lawyer. I'm not in your jurisdiction but even if I was, I'd need a lot more information to assess this. The church may be able to do this, or it may not, and it will boil down to nitty gritty details that can't be conveyed in an Avvo post. An experienced discrimination attorney will be able to figure it out pretty quickly.
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Churches are exempt from a lot (but not all) of discrimination laws, because their whole purpose for existing is to teach a certain philosophy and moral code, a.k.a. religion. A church can usually terminate somebody's employment if that person takes an action that the church morally disagrees with. The church cannot lie about somebody in their references, because that would be defamation, but a bad reference could just be an opinion, like "not a team player" or "hard to get along with."
It would be best to consult an attorney who can ask you more questions and get more details about your situation. Somebody who practices in employment law or in non-profit organization law would be able to give you a more detailed assessment about what legal recourse, if any, you can take.
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