While working as an administrative assistant four years ago, she became pregnant with her long-term partner, and asked her bosses for paperwork for maternity leave. According to her lawsuit, she was given marching orders instead.
Rather than denying it, lawyers for the company said she wasn't the only one: they'd fired at least 12 other employees for violating one of the founder's 14 core values — "righteous living" — by having sex outside marriage.
Since Tennessee is an at-will employee state, company lawyers argue that workers can be fired for any reason — including their sex lives — as long as it is not discriminatory or retaliatory.
Per the Tennessean, the company doesn't explicitly list pre-marital sex as being against the rules in its handbook, nor does it explain exactly what qualifies as "righteous living". When asked to do so by O'Connor's lawyers, they branded the request "vague and irrelevant."
Also, the company does not reveal how it polices employees on how righteously they are living at home.
However, as Vanderbilt University law school professor Jennifer Bennett Shinall pointed out to the publication, only females can get pregnant, ergo only females ever have to admit to breaking such an unwritten rule.
"It is certainly going to be more obvious because of pregnancy," she said. "It is going to be more obvious if a woman is engaging in premarital sex than men."
What the company handbook does spell out is that it is a Christian company, and that any employee not upholding those values risks damaging the brand, and therefore their own termination.
Incidentally, O'Connor is Christian too, but one who does not believe she must be wed to have sex; she does however believe that Christianity should not "be punitive, hateful, vengeful, or judgmental."
"(O'Connor's) view of Christianity does not require her to invade or inquire or know the specifics of what other people do or do not do in their bedroom or when they do it, much less pass morality judgement on other people," the complaint states, per the Tennessean.
In a motion to dismiss the case, lawyers for the company argue O'Connor was aware of the policies, citing an email she sent to HR acknowledging that "being unmarried and expecting is frowned upon here", NBC reported.
The email is "nothing more than an acknowledgement of Defendant’s premarital sex ban and admission that she violated it," the attorneys claim.