May 2024 Church & State Magazine - May 2024

Former instructor can pursue case against Bible college

 

Janay Garrick: Getting her day in court

Americans United celebrated a federal appeals court opinion issued March 18 in the lawsuit Garrick v. Moody Bible Institute. The decision allows a sex-discrimination lawsuit filed by former communications instructor Janay Garrick to proceed against Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

Soon after Moody Bible hired Garrick in 2014, she began experiencing and witnessing rampant sex discrimination. She was denied benefits offered to her male counterparts and directed to teach a heavier course load than theirs. She was also subjected to demeaning and hostile behavior: Male colleagues critiqued her clothing, openly ridiculed her and questioned the ability of women to complete basic tasks. Garrick also saw that female students suffered sex discrimination on campus — they were ostracized because of their sexuality and publicly humiliated.

When Garrick tried to protect herself and her students, the college made it worse. She was denied a promotion for which she was qualified. Her supervisors began fictionalizing poor performance reviews in an effort to push her out. And when that failed, Moody Bible argued that Garrick’s views on gender equity (which the college was aware of when she was hired) made her incompatible with the school, which has religious views that call for the subordination of women in certain respects.

Meanwhile, several male employees who shared Garrick’s egalitarian views and joined her in speaking out against sexism on Moody Bible’s campus faced none of the harassment or retaliation directed at Garrick.

Garrick filed a federal Title VII lawsuit alleging sex discrimination after Moody Bible fired her in 2017. The U.S. District Court in Illinois in 2020 denied Moody Bible’s motion to dismiss Garrick’s case. Moody Bible appealed; the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal and paved the way for the case to proceed. Garrick has won the right to litigate the case and attempt to vindicate her rights.

“The court’s decision today is a win for the rule of law and a critical step in our fight to stop the weaponization of religious freedom,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United. “Janay Garrick was fired because she tried to combat rampant sex discrimination at the college. Our courts should not allow religious freedom to be distorted as a license to discriminate against women and deny them basic civil rights.

“This case brings to light a dangerous trend: backed by a shadowy network of conservative legal activists, religious employers are urging courts to rewrite the rules of legal procedure so that they can weaponize religious freedom against their employees. Americans United is not going to let that happen. We’re fighting to protect all workers and prevent these groups from sidestepping civil-rights laws.”

Garrick’s appeal was argued by Americans United Litigation Counsel Bradley Girard. Garrick’s legal team also includes or included AU Litigation Fellow Jenny Samuels, former AU Litigation Fellow Gabriela Hybel, and Jamie S. Franklin of the Civil Litigation Clinic of the Chicago-Kent College of Law.

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