LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Ashlie Simpson and her boyfriend were doing what the Census Bureau says 7.5 million other couples are doing, living together without being married–and she says Colorado Christian University in Lakewood fired her for it.
She says the HR person asked her if she was “having an inappropriate relationship and it was considered living in sin.”
Simpson says she started working for CCU in 2009 and loved her job helping adult students with degree plans.
She says employee guidelines, which are not a contract, never mentioned couples living together. Things started going downhill in 2010 when she and a married co-worker went on a coffee run together.
“A vice president and cabinet member at the time approached me in my office alone and accused me of having an inappropriate relationship with that co-worker, as well as being a distraction and threat to his marriage because I was single and he was married.”
“It was hurtful to be labeled that way in a professional work environment.”
She complained, and she says CCU has taken steps to retaliate against her ever since; in January they fired her. She claims she was terminated for what they called “living in sin.”
Last week, Simpson filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court, accusing CCU of invading her privacy and discriminating against her.
“There is a statute that was enacted about five years ago that says you cannot fire someone who is pursuing lawful activity on his or her own time at his or her own premises,” says her attorney, Elwyn Schaefer. “This is clearly that.”
He says courts have given religious organizations leeway in hiring and firing over lifestyle issues, but he adds that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision said it applied to those who were employed as ministers. He says that’s not the case here, and therefore Colorado law trumps CCU’s right to fire someone for their lifestyle.
CCU did not return our calls, but Simpson’s lawyer says the organization previously has said they fired Simpson over job performance issues.