61ºF

2 Central Florida day care workers say they were fired for being gay

Letter to parents: Teacher described as having left for 'personal reasons'

WINTER PARK, Fla. – Two Central Florida women said they were fired from their jobs as day care workers because they are gay.

"I still want to work with young kids because I love them," said Jaclyn Pfieffer. "They told me I was one of the best."

For the past year and a half, she loved working with 2-year-olds at the Aloma Methodist Early Childhood Learning Center and she thought she was doing a good job.

But on March 18, she said everything changed. The director heard rumors and then asked if she was gay.

"I said, 'Could I be fired?' And she said, 'Yes,'" said Pfieffer. "I never thought they would actually fire me for being gay."

Until then, she kept her personal life private. Recently, her girlfriend got a job as a substitute at the day care. They both say the director gave them an ultimatum -- change lifestyles or leave.

"I found that really offensive that she felt she was in a place to judge my sin," said Pfieffer's girlfriend, Kelly Bardier. "She said this sin was not 'socially acceptable.'"

In a letter the school sent to parents, the teacher was described as having left for "personal reasons."

The day care is run by the Aloma United Methodist Church. The day care did not return a request for comment, but the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church issued a statement.

"Aloma UMC felt the need to end its relationship with two of our Early Childhood Learning Center employees. We can say decisions regarding their employment involve long-standing local church policies intended to reflect the beliefs and values of this congregation. These are policies applicable to all employees. Our church continues to be in prayer for all of those affected," wrote Gretchen Hastings, director of communications for the Florida Conference UMC.

Attorney Mary Meeks, who helped draft Orange County's Human Rights Ordinance to include sexual orientation, wrote a letter to the day care. She argued that religious freedom does not mean workers can be fired strictly based on sexual orientation. Meeks threatened to sue for discrimination if the day care does not retract their terminations and apologize by April 15.

"I feel like if a person can do their job, gay, straight or whatever, they should be able to work and do their job that they love to do," said Pfieffer.