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Woman Suing Fargo Diocese
By Lisa Schneider
The Forum - 12/04/2003
A Fargo woman is suing the Fargo Catholic Diocese for sexual discrimination, saying she was fired for getting pregnant and having a child out of wedlock.
The diocese says it didn’t fire Melissa M. Enebo for getting pregnant, but rather for continuing to live with the child’s father after the diocese told her to stop.And it is anyone's business because??
If Enebo had been married when she got pregnant, she wouldn’t have been fired, says Robert Schultz, Enebo’s lawyer, in civil court documents filed Nov. 25 in Cass County District Court.(And my mom wonders why I no longer attend Mass
Enebo became pregnant in 1998 and was fired in June 1999. Schultz didn’t return The Forum’s phone calls, so he couldn’t explain why the suit was filed four years later. Enebo could not be reached for comment.Gee and when I did my volunteer hours for school there, its a good thing I didn't talk about my home life, or I would have had to find another place to get my hours in.
The diocese says in court records that Enebo repeatedly and knowingly violated the church’s teachings and diocesan employment policies by living with a man out of wedlock.Well gee, lets throw her in jail and toss the key. She's so evil man..Puhleaze
Enebo also violated North Dakota state law, which prohibits unmarried couples from living together, writes Benjamin Thomas, a lawyer representing the diocese.UMM isn't that unconstitutional. My bedroom is nobody else's damn business. What is this Afganastan? No wonder we have a reputation for being hicks. This is not helping our state one little bit
But North Dakota law says employers can’t fire someone based on their marital status, Schultz writes. And that folks is what we call a conundrum, caused by people forgetting that little part in The Constitution apart Church and state being separate.
State law also prohibits an employer from firing an employee based on whether they’re pregnant or have had a child, he writes.
Regardless, Thomas says North Dakota courts wouldn’t have jurisdiction over the case.Where should she go? Vatican City?
North Dakota law provides that “the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall be forever guaranteed in this state,” Thomas writes.
According to court records:
The diocese hired Enebo as a full-time administrative assistant on Nov. 1, 1997.
On Oct. 7, 1998, Enebo told her supervisor, Scott Hoselton, that she was four to five months pregnant.
Because Enebo said she didn’t want her pregnancy to embarrass the diocese or the bishop, she asked Hoselton to advise her how to handle the situation.
Hoselton responded in writing two days later, saying Enebo’s title would change from administrative assistant to secretary, but that her duties, pay and work schedule would not change. ???? And that some how changes or fixes things???
He added that she should take steps to reconcile with the church.
In March 1999, Enebo took 10 unpaid days off from work to give birth to a boy.
In late April, weeks after she returned to work, a diocesan employee informed Hoselton that Enebo was living with her son’s father.
When confronted on the matter, Enebo told Hoselton that her boyfriend had been sleeping on her couch since about the time her son was born. Enebo told Hoselton she had no intentions of marrying her boyfriend.
Hoselton told Enebo the diocese would fire her if she didn’t change her living situation by June 1, 1999, which was about one month from the time of their discussion.Again this is anyone's business??
After Enebo continued living with her boyfriend, Hoselton fired her on June 2, 1999.
The next day, Hoselton sent a letter to all diocesan staff in which he wrote: “Melissa was instrumental in helping to improve upon many of the ‘systems’ that we follow, and will be missed by many -- but especially by me.”
Enebo’s employee reviews depict her as an average to above-average worker.
Diocesan employees rarely are fired, said the Rev. Gregory Schlesselman, the vicar general and spokesman for the Diocese.
Schlesselman said he couldn’t think of any diocesan employee dismissed for reasons similar to those in Enebo’s case.
As a result of being fired, Enebo says in court records she has suffered humiliation, embarrassment, depression and a damaged reputation.
Enebo is suing the diocese for sexual discrimination related to pregnancy and child birth, marital status discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of mental distress.
In court documents, she requests that the diocese pay her lost wages, monetary compensation for distress and lawyer’s fees.
The diocese says Enebo provides no documentation of emotional or physical distress in the matter, nor has she proven the diocese tried to harm her.
This is the first time an employer has invoked North Dakota’s controversial cohabitation law to justify firing an employee, said Mark Schneider, a lawyer with Fargo’s Schneider, Schneider and Phillips.
In this past legislative session, North Dakota’s Senate voted 26-21 to keep the state’s cohabitation law.And is anyone suprised by the fact that young people are leaving this state as fast as they can pack thier bags and say good-bye. Though in all fairness, I am sure that is only a small part of it, but it is a represation of a larger picture. A state still thinks what people do in private is the government's business.
The bill to repeal the law came on the heels of a 2001 state Supreme Court decision which said landlords could legally refuse to rent property to unmarried couples.
“This is kind of a new situation,” Schneider said of Enebo’s lawsuit.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Lisa Schneider at (701) 241-5529
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In every neighborhood there is at least one house that all the neighbors gossip about. This is a diary from the woman who lives in that house. I am a single mother in her mid thirties. I live in North Dakota with my son, Warren.
I tend to be a bit of a slob, and am the opposite of a girly-girl. I am geek girl, who loves Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Buffy, Angel, action movies, science fiction, action adventure, Dr. Who, and so on and so on.
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