Dane Ortland’s Church Investigated For “Retaliation Charge”––How Can Churches Do Better?

A 2021 firing of a female staff member from a Chicago-area church led by pastor and author Dane Ortlund was determined to have “substantial evidence” of retaliation, according to an investigation into alleged discrimination by the state of Illinois.

The former director of operations at Naperville Presbyterian Church, Emily Hyland, said her termination came days after privately complaining to two elders about gender discrimination from Ortlund. At the time, she had worked at the church for eight years, and he had been senior pastor for six months. After her firing, she filed charges over gender discrimination and retaliation at the state agency.

The Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) did not find evidence that the church or Ortlund discriminated against her based on her gender. Evidence shows that “Ortlund … never made any discriminatory remarks directly related to [Hyland’s] sex,” the report said, nor was there evidence of discrimination that rose to the level of a “hostile work environment.”

The church insists that Hyland did not frame her complaint as gender discrimination until after her termination. But the agency found there is “substantial evidence” to support her charge that she was fired “in retaliation for having engaged in prior protected activity.”

…Employment disputes are common, but this case might offer useful lessons for churches in similar disputes–both in terms of legal complexity and in terms of navigating pastoral care of a terminated staffer who is also a church member. Employment lawyers say it’s rare for an agency to issue a finding of substantial evidence of retaliation, making Hyland’s case a significant one. Read More»

Emily Belz | “State Finds ‘Substantial Evidence’ for Retaliation Charge at Illinois Church” | December 12, 2022


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One comment

  1. I am glad to be kept up on this story but what does the State of Illinois’ assessment actually mean? “substantial evidence” to support her charge that she was fired “in retaliation for having engaged in prior protected activity.” ? Were the charges thrown out…what is the upshot of this for the church?

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