Alyce Conlon, former spiritual director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, has filed a wrongful-termination suit in U.S. District Court against her former employer. Conlon, who was laid-off in December 2011, claims she was fired because of her divorce.
Conlon began working at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an interdenominational ministry organization that operates on American college campuses, in 1986. She had held the position of “Spiritual Director” since 2004. She worked in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
According to Conlon, her employer became heavily involved with her marital issues, going as far as to contact her ex-husband about the matter without her knowledge or consent.
The IVCF became involved with the marriage largely because Conlon had reported to her supervisor, Marc Papai, the Director of Michigan’s Ohio Valley Division of the IVCF, that she was considering a divorce in early 2011. Papai subsequently placed Conlon on paid leave so that she could work on her marital issues.
Conlon’s attorney, Katherine Smith Kennedy, claims that her client used this paid leave as her employer suggested. “During this leave of absence, plaintiff followed each and every requirement of the Separation and Divorcing Staff Policy including counseling sessions and continuing communication with her supervisors as to her progress,” Kennedy wrote in the lawsuit against IVCF.
Despite Conlon’s attempts at reconciling her marriage, she and her husband, David Riemer, ultimately ended their relationship. She was not allowed to return to work. Conlon claims that men that have endured similar situations have been allowed to remain at the organization.
In a letter to Conlon regarding her termination, Bailey acknowledge that her failure to maintain her marriage contributed to her firing.
“It is with sorrow that we acknowledge that reconciliation has proven unsuccessful. We have not seen enough progress to continue the process any longer. As a result, effective Dec. 15, 2011, your employment with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA will be terminated,” Bailey wrote.
IVCF has remained firm on its stance that a stable marriage is a requirement of its employees, since its employees must be Christian. According to MLive.com, the nonprofit organization claimed that its job descriptions clearly state that prospective employees must maintain or attempt to maintain a healthy marriage. “This belief is in line with ... position descriptions which state that our employees are to be maturing disciples of Christ. When there are significant marital issues, we encourage employees to seek appropriate help to move towards reconciliation,” the organization said.