Roncalli High School’s former co-director of guidance filed suit against the school and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in federal court Monday, alleging she was discriminated against because of her sexual orientation.
Plaintiff Lynn Starkey said she was notified May 1 that Roncalli was not renewing her employment contract for the 2019-20 school year, a decision that will effectively end her employment Aug. 31. She had worked for the school for 39 years, including 21 years as a guidance counselor.
Her attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, said Starkey is gay and entered a civil union with her spouse in 2015. DeLaney says Starkey acknowledged the relationship when asked by Roncalli’s principal.
The archdiocese said in a statement in March that the Catholic school’s staff and teachers are employed on one-year contracts that don’t automatically renew. It said Starkey was “in breach of her contract” because she is in a civil union that is considered ‘contrary to a valid marriage as seen through the eyes of the Catholic Church.'”
In her suit, Starkey alleges the archdiocese and Roncalli subjected her to a hostile work environment and discriminated against her on the basis of her sexual orientation, and retaliated against her due to her complaints of discrimination.
Starkey was the second counselor at Roncalli to lose her job at the school because of a same-sex union. Roncalli placed guidance counselor Shelly Fitzgerald on administrative leave in August 2018 after learning she had a female spouse. Fitzgerald also has filed a federal suit against the school and the archdiocese.
Starkey filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Roncalli High School in November. The complaint said the dismissal of Fitzgerald increased Starkey’s workload and created a hostile work environment.
“I dedicated my professional career to Roncalli,” Starkey said in her lawsuit. “To be treated this way after 39 years has been devastating to me. I look forward to pursuing justice through my case.”
The complaint seeks compensatory damages, emotional distress damages, punitive damages and attorney costs in unspecified amounts.
Delaney also represents Joshua Payne-Elliott, who sued the archdiocese this month in Marion County court in a similar case. The suit seeks compensatory damages for lost earnings, loss of future earning capacity, emotional distress and reputational injury. It also asks for punitive damages and legal fees.
Payne-Elliott said he was fired from his job at Cathedral High School because he’s in a same-sex marriage. He reached a settlement with Cathedral in which the school said it would help Payne-Elliott with future employment options.
Payne-Elliott has been in a same-sex marriage since 2017 with a teacher at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.
The archdiocese last month ordered Brebeuf to fire Payne-Elliott’s spouse, Layton Payne-Elliott, but Brebeuf refused the order. As a result, the archdiocese said it would no longer recognize Brebeuf as Catholic.
The archdiocese said in a statement earlier this month that the U.S. Constitution allows religious organizations to define what conduct is unacceptable for employees.
“In the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ Catholic schools, all teachers, school leaders and guidance counselors are ministers and witnesses of the faith, who are expected to uphold the teachings of the Church in their daily lives, both in and out of school,” the archdiocese said.