While trashing talking on Facebook cannot get you fired, publicly celebrating your marriage in a newspaper announcement can. That’s what Laine Tadlock (pictured, right) learned after she was fired from a job at Benedictine University’s Springfield campus in Illinois.
The Catholic university didn’t have a problem with Laine being gay, or even that she went to Iowa to marry partner Kae Helstrom. It’s that she dared share the news in a public forum, with July’s State Journal-Register announcement (that mentioned her employer) ending her gig as the director of the education program. Except Benedictine says on Oct. 28 Laine resigned; she insists she did not.
Benedictine’s lawyers sent Laine’s counsel a note that says, “By publicizing the marriage ceremony in which she participated in Iowa she has significantly disregarded and flouted core religious beliefs which, as a Catholic institution, it is our mission to uphold.”
According to documents Tadlock furnished to the newspaper, the university offered her an early retirement deal Aug. 27 under which she would have been paid one year’s salary, two-thirds of her salary the second year and one-third the third year. The offer also included a confidentiality clause prohibiting Tadlock from talking publicly about what had happened, as well as a waiver prohibiting her from filing suit against Benedictine.
Tadlock and her attorney, Richard Frazier of Springfield, made a counter-offer. They were told there would be no negotiations, Tadlock said. She refused the university’s early retirement offer. In a Sept. 7 e-mail and letter to Frazier, Wolf wrote that if Tadlock would not accept early retirement, then “most likely (the university) will decide to terminate your employment due to incompatibility with the University’s essential mission.” The e-mail was also sent to Carroll and Bromberg.
[...] After Tadlock turned down Benedictine’s early retirement deal, the university put her on administrative leave as of Oct. 1. Then, on Oct. 8, a new offer came to Tadlock from Carroll. He sent a letter that day that said the school was reassigning Tadlock to what Carroll called “a newly created position” — director of assessment, accreditation and institutional effectiveness. She had until Oct. 27 to make a decision. “I told them numerous times,” Tadlock says, “that I’m not qualified. Assessment is not my bailiwick, not my strong point.”
Tadlock was told if she didn’t accept the new position, the university would consider that her resignation. She turned the position down. Frazier then received an e-mail from Wolf, sent Oct. 28, that said “… the university accepts your client’s resignation from employment.” Frazier, Tadlock’s attorney, describes the university’s reasoning as “bizarre.” Tadlock never submitted a letter of resignation, he said. Frazier and Tadlock say they are exploring their options for legal recourse.
Amazingly, Laine’s deputy Maureen Lavin resigned as a show of support for her boss and friend.
As for pursuing legal action, Laine could show at the very least Benedictine is guilty of violating its own non-discrimination policy. From the employee handbook: “It is the university’s policy to provide equal employment opportunity to all persons without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, handicap, veteran status, marital status, sexual orientation or any basis protected by law.”
The couple’s wedding announcement reads:
Kae Helstrom and Laine Tadlock, both of Springfield, were married at noon June 12, 2010, at Stampe Memorial Lilac Garden in Davenport, Iowa, by Magistrate Cindy Taylor.
Matron of honor was Lisa Tomasino. Best woman was Jonna Cooley.
Kae is a graduate of the University of Illinois Springfield, earning her master’s degree. She is employed as a personal trainer at One-on-One Fitness.
Laine is a graduate of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, earning her Ph.D. She is employed as education program director at Benedictine University in Springfield.
The couple resides in Springfield.