Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Ulpana Fires Unmarried Pregnant Teacher

An Israeli "national religious" girls high school (Ulpana) fired a teacher who was pregnant...and single.

This headline has been floating around the web yesterday, especially in light that the teacher sued the school in court for damages, specifically for having broken the law which prevents women from being fired if they are pregnant.

When an Ulpana expects their teachers to be more than educators, but also role models for their students, did the school do the right thing even though they broke the law?

I could almost understand the Ulpana's point of view till I looked around and found that our story above is missing some important details (courtesy of The Marker)

1. The teacher is religious, and observes a religious lifestyle in school and outside of it.
2. The teacher was 41 years old and single.
3. Not finding a husband by her age of 41, the teacher decided to undego artificial impregnation so she could have a child and she would raise the child as a single parent.

The Ulpana claimed they fired the teacher not because she was pregnant, but because she was not observing a religious lifestyle (ie, had she been married and pregnant, they wouldn't have fired her.)

The plaintiff's lawyer stated that the Ulpana should have taken into account her unique situation of being a single, religious teacher who wanted to have a child before she would be biologically unable to.

The court ruling stated an important point:

The court does not make light of the defendant's right to determine their school policy, but the right of the defendant is less than than the right of plaintiff, and doesn't justify terminating the plaintiff's employment while violating her right to parenthood.

The court awarded 180,000 NIS in damages to the teacher, which is a rather expensive lesson in democracy and "freedom of eployment" to the Ulpana.

In my opinion, if the Ulpana truly wanted to act as a role model for their students, they should not have fired their teacher.

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Laura Ben-David said...

Wow that is really interesting; i hadn't heard about it at all.
I can certainly understand the school's perspective... it is an awkward situation that requires an explanation for the students/parents in order for it to be a 'positive' thing from their angle - which in itself is awkward. Nonetheless, i think you are right that the school was wrong in firing her and they should have found a way to make it 'comfortable.'

Mrs. S. said...

Thanks for the link!

Sounds like a lose-lose situation. It's unfortunate that the teacher was fired, but given the circumstances, I'm not sure that the ulpana had any other realistic options at their disposal.

Batya said...

This is a win-win for the teacher. She'll get a new job afterwards, and I'm sure that as a single parent that money will come in very handy.
It is becoming more and more common for single women, even religious ones to buy sperm to get pregnant.

Miriam said...

I don't think the teacher should have been fired. Her private life is her private life and as long as she doesn't go into the nitty ditty of how and why she became pregnant..the school should have offered her a leave of absent for a year...


Hadassa said...

1) The problem is that she's supposed to be a role model for teen-age girls. If she was a doctor, a secretary, a waitress etc. her employer wouldn't have a case for firing her. The halachic opinions giving single women a heter to have children are an extremely small minority and the Ulpana's rabbi rules differently.
2) I've read that she had been on unpaid leave and returned so that she wouldn't lose some her rights as a teacher. Did she try to keep this matter private?

Hadassa said...

some of her rights

Neshama said...

Is she under any type of contract?
Can she return after she has the baby?
Did they fire her also not to cover 'maternity leave'?
Will the govt get involved in this, maybe because of 'discrimination'?
It's such a shame that some girls have to resort to this method of bringing a new life into the world.

Hadassa said...

Neshama, if you can comfortably read Hebrew, search for articles on the subject. There's a lot more information available in Hebrew than in English.

Eitan said...

Interesting, and yeah, I agree with you, Jameel. The "system" worked this time 'round, I guess...

Michal said...

Where do you draw the line regarding being a role model?
Perhaps single women over the age of 30 shouldn't be employed to teach at an ulpana as being single and 30 is hardly a good role model for nice dosi girls?!?

The fact is, for whatever reason, this woman was single and 41. She hadn't chosen to become less religious (as so many older singles do) or marry someone not religious. That in itself shows an huge amount of strength and emuna.

She also had a strong (and totally understandable) positive desire to have a child. I don't really know that much about artifical insemination and halacha but I know enough to know it's a matter of debate.

I don't understand why her choice to have a child (given that she's 41 and single) makes her into a bad role model.

Michal said...

BTW in response to Laura-ben-David's comment that "it is an awkward situation that requires an explanation for the students/parents in order for it to be a 'positive' thing from their angle - which in itself is awkward".

Life is awkward. Life gets complicated. People have to make difficult decisions. I think the Ulpan is doing its students an injustice by pretending that these things don't exist...that nice, good ulpana girls go onto sherut leumi, get married to a hesder guy, have multiple children and live happily ever after.

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