Education

Former Atascadero school counselor says he was terminated because of his wife’s pregnancy

Atascadero High School
Atascadero High School dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A former Atascadero High School counselor filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging the district discriminated against him before and after his wife gave birth to twins.

Greg Jordan claims he faced pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination in violation of the California Family Rights Act, according to court documents filed with the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court.

Jordan was hired by the Atascadero Unified School District as a counselor in August 2015 on a one-year contract, with the possibility of a permanent position. He found out his wife was pregnant in September 2015 and told one of his colleagues in November, who then informed Vice Principal Libby Madding, Jordan’s supervisor.

Court documents claim Madding made comments about Jordan’s wife’s pregnancy that made him feel uncomfortable. She allegedly implied Jordan was unable to afford a family of his size and inquired into his stay-at-home wife’s lifestyle.

Jordan had his first evaluation meeting with Madding in February 2016, according to the lawsuit. She allegedly presented his review as a “good starting point for a new counselor” and said he was laying groundwork for years to come.

In April, Jordan went on family leave around the time his wife gave birth. In addition to guaranteeing maternity leave, the California Family Rights Act allows parents to take “bonding leave” to spend time with their newborn children.

Later in the month, the lawsuit says, he met with Madding and two other supervisors, including Principal Bill Neely. Although Neely previously seemed to indicate the district would renew Jordan’s contract, Madding said during the meeting they were looking at other options.

According to the suit, Neely said the school was looking for a counselor “who is ready to work harder than they’ve ever worked before, and someone who’s having having the time of their life.” He also allegedly said Jordan’s newborn son was “ugly.”

While Jordan was still on leave, he says Neely called to inform him the district was hiring someone else and wouldn’t be renewing his contract for the following year. Neely said the district was not renewing Jordan’s contract because he had once left a meeting 15 minutes early.

Jordan’s family leave extended until June, when his contract expired. He submitted an application for another job with the school district but was not contacted about the position.

The lawsuit claims the school district didn’t try to accommodate Jordan, harassed and retaliated against him based on his spouse’s pregnancy, wrongfully terminated him and failed to inform him of any additional job opportunities.

Tom Butler, school district superintendent, declined to comment on pending litigation or respond to the allegations made in the court documents.

“The Atascadero Unified School District fully complies with the California Family Rights Act, as well as all provisions of California Government Code, and prides itself on upholding our core values of respect, integrity, teamwork, and excellence,” Butler said in an emailed statement.

“The district conducts a rigorous hiring and retention process for employment in order to maintain an educational environment that continues to educate the top students in the nation.”

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseyholden27

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