The principal of a Leimert Park Catholic school testified Monday that a former teacher who sued the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, alleging she was fired in 2013 for being pregnant and unwed, had chronic problems with tardiness and inappropriate cell phone use on the job.
Evelyn Rickenbacker, testifying before a Los Angeles Superior Court jury tasked with deciding the claims in plaintiff Kourtney Liggins’ lawsuit, said Liggins was a science teacher at Transfiguration School. When Liggins was late in the morning, it was not easy to find a substitute who could teach that subject, Rickenbacker said.
Rickenbacker also said Liggins was regularly tardy in reporting to class after the lunch hour, throwing off the rotations of other teachers who taught other subjects. Rickenbacker said she was a math teacher at the time.
Asked by archdiocese attorney Lara C. de Leon how much of a problem Liggins’ late arrivals to class were to school operations, Rickenbacker replied, “It was significant.”
Liggins, who also allegedly used her cell phone to make personal calls while in class, sued the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Transfiguration School, then-Pastor Michael Tang and Rickenbacker in September 2013. She says she was seven months pregnant in the summer of 2012 when Tang allegedly told her that her pregnancy would “morally corrupt” impressionable teens at the school.
When Liggins, now 48, complained to school officials, they told her to “pray on it,” according to her lawsuit, which alleges wrongful termination in violation of public policy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation.
Rickenbacker is no longer a defendant. She became the school’s principal in July 2013, succeeding Liggins’ sister, Michele Yerima, who resigned four months earlier.
Rickenbacker said she first raised her concerns about Liggins’ behavior with Yerima in January 2013. She said she tried to be sensitive knowing that Liggins and Yerima were sisters, but added that Yerima was not sympathetic.
“I felt like she didn’t take it seriously,” Rickenbacker said.
Rickenbacker said she tried talking to Yerima about Liggins again some months later when Yermina was serving for a time as acting principal after her resignation.
“I believed she would talk to (Liggins) about it,” Rickenbacker said.
Tang previously testified that after reviewing Liggins’ record, he and Rickenbacker decided against renewing Liggins’ contract for the 2013-14 school year.
Liggins gave birth to a girl in 2012.