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School Principal Sues District for Firing Her Like It's 1954

In a story that's straight out of the 1950s, an elementary school principal claims she has been fired for—are you sitting down?—being pregnant. And also unmarried.

Even more shocking: this happened in the fancy suburbs of Los Angeles.

According to San Diego News, a local station near Los Angeles, Christine Castillo, had accepted the principal position at La Cañada Elementary School in 2012, moving from Seattle to Los Angeles for what she called her "dream job."

Only a few weeks after she had started the new job, Castillo announced her pregnancy, news that she claims was most definitely not met with warm wishes and congratulations from her superior, superintendent of the school district, Wendy Sinnette.

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Part of the way through the pregnancy, Castillo started experience complications with her pregnancy. She submitted doctor's notes requesting that she be allowed to leave early, according to the Pasadena Star News. Moreover, "After some reluctance, the district eventually allowed her to depart early for two weeks, but the tardiness of the LCUSD response only allowed her to leave early for just one week before her child was born, the suit states. Castillo also was required to work up to 12-hour days to do extra tasks assigned before she gave birth, the suit states."

A month into her maternity leave, human resources sent Castillo an email stating that her being out of work was costly to the district, the suit states.

As a new hire, district policy only guaranteed her 10 sick days for her maternity leave, not the minimum of 6 weeks of disability leave, which comes with partial pay and is standard for California teachers and administrators.

Castillo stayed on the job all the way until the day before her daughter was born on Dec. 19, 2012, the suit states. A month into her maternity leave, human resources sent Castillo an email stating that her being out of work was costly to the district, the suit states.

Castillo continued working at the school district throughout her pregnancy and after the baby was born, she was eventually terminated in June of 2016. She was informed that her contract as principal would be not reinstated and she would be reassigned to a regular classroom position.

'This is really going to upset your staff and parents'

Castillo had already filed an internal complaint against the school back in 2015, citing many instances of negative treatment as a result of her pregnancy, including poor performance reviews ( she was dinged for not working to her potential in her review, which did not account for the work days missed following her baby's birth) and the school failing to accommodate her maternity leave. After she was officially demoted, Castillo filed a lawsuit against the school.

According to internal documents, Castillo claims that the superintendent denounced her quite publicly for her pregnancy and that the school board was "concerned" about the fact that Castillo was not married during her pregnancy, fearing a "negative" reaction from the community.

According to Castillo, the superintendent made comments such as, "This is really going to upset your staff and parents," "I made it clear what this job required" and "I need a drink." Meanwhile, Sinette also told the shocked principal that she should have disclosed her pregnancy before she was hired.

Under federal law, it is illegal to discriminate against a pregnant woman in any way, including asking her about any plans to become pregnant or if she is pregnant before hiring. The Family and Medical Leave Act in California also mandates that pregnant workers receive accommodations needed during their pregnancy, as well as time off after having a baby, so depending on how the school failed to accommodate the principal, they could be in violation of state laws.

Bottom line? No one should be punished for having a baby— in the eyes of the community or their workplace.

"I was excited about being pregnant and starting a family," Castillo explained to San Diego News. "I wanted to share that with my employer, never thinking it would compromise the work I was going to be doing there."

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And it shouldn't have. The school district is denying any wrong-doing and is claiming that Castillo's demotion had nothing to do with her pregnancy out of wedlock, as well as publicly declaring that they fully stand behind their superintendent.

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