A childcare teacher in California is suing her former employer after she was allegedly fired for refusing on religious grounds to read books to children that featured same-sex couples.
Nelli Parisenkova, who formerly worked at Bright Horizons Children’s Center in Studio City, filed the complaint in the Superior Court of California on Thursday.
According to the lawsuit, Parisenkova had been working at Bright Horizons for four years, having been aware of the books at the location, but not having been forced to read them.
In April, Katy Callas, the director of the location, who is a lesbian, became aware of Parisenkova’s beliefs, took exception to them, and ultimately led to her being dismissed.
“Parisenkova formally requested a religious accommodation from Bright Horizons that aligned with her prior informally granted request. Bright Horizons responded by categorically denying the request,” stated the suit.
“Bright Horizons did not engage in any negotiations and made no attempt whatsoever to determine whether a reasonable accommodation could be reached. Instead, Bright Horizons issued a counseling memo with false statements, terminated her life-insurance benefits, required her to complete retraining in diversity issues, and encouraged her to resign her position. Ms. Parisenkova could not return to work without an accommodation; so, Bright Horizons terminated her employment.”
The suit accuses Bright Horizons and its staff of multiple charges, including unlawful retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, religion-based harassment, wrongful termination, failure to accommodate, unlawful constructive discharge, and disparate treatment.
Thomas More Law Society Special Counsel Paul Jonna, who is helping to represent Parisenkova, said in a statement Thursday that he believed this was “a clear-cut case of one of the largest childcare employers in the country having anti-religious workplace policies that promote indoctrination of young children with the LGBT agenda.”
“Callas called Nelli into her office, questioned her in an irate manner, told her that if she did not want to celebrate diversity this was not the place for her to work, gave her an administrative leave memo, escorted her outside with a security guard, and left her out in the 96-degree heat with no transportation,” Jonna said.
“As a result, Nelli was forced to walk 20 minutes in the heat and wait 45 minutes for transportation and suffered heat exhaustion for the next two days. She was afraid to return to work.”
Founded in 1986, Bright Horizons is an international childcare organization with hundreds of locations and boasting more than 26,000 employees.
Over the years, Bright Horizons has often voiced support for the LGBT movement, seeing it as part of its overall effort to advance inclusion and diversity.
For example, in October 2018, Bright Horizons documented how their centers celebrated LGBT History Month, including taking part in Pride Parades and reading books to children like Daddy, Poppa, and Me and Mommy, Momma, and Me.
In November 2019, Bright Horizons officially endorsed the Equality Act, a controversial legislative proposal that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal antidiscrimination policy.