A former principal at a Catholic elementary school in La Mirada testified Monday that her supervisor made a flippant remark when she informed him in 2014 that she was pregnant and would be going on maternity leave.
“You’re coming back in two weeks, right,” the Rev. Joseph Visperas replied, according to 38-year-old Bobbie Castillo, whose wrongful termination case against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is being heard by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury.
Visperas is pastor of St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church and Castillo described his tone of voice as serious when he made the alleged remark.
Castillo filed her suit in October 2015, maintaining she was fired from the school in March of that year because of her pregnancy and for exposing misconduct by others at the school.
Lawyers for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles say she lost her job for allegedly plagiarizing a self-study book she presented as part of the requirements for the school’s accreditation renewal.
Castillo was hired as a seventh-grade teacher at the school in 2007 and was promoted to principal by Visperas four years later, according to the archdiocese’s court papers. Prior to her maternity leave from October 2014 to January 2015 while she was principal, she also took a similar amount of time for a maternity leave in 2009 while she was a teacher, the archdiocese’s court papers state.
In her testimony, Castillo said she was worried about Visperas’ 2014 remark about her pregnancy because it occurred in March, the month principals are typically presented with contract proposals for the next school year. She said she never received a contract until the following February, after she returned from maternity leave.
Castillo also said that Visperas told her after his alleged pregnancy remark that he was going to have members of the school staff rate her, causing her to worry about her job status. She said she became further concerned about her employment in April 2014, when a woman came to the school and confronted her about her pregnancy.
“She was leaning at my desk yelling at me for about five minutes,” Castillo said.
Castillo said that when she returned from maternity leave, Visperas asked if she was going to have more children. She also said she continued to fret about her job status.
“I was upset and concerned that I still didn’t have a contract,” Castillo said.
Castillo maintains she was wrongfully fired because she had gotten pregnant and due to her reporting of alleged misconduct by others at the school, including the charging of parents for their unworked bingo game hours and the presence of a dart board in a nun’s office that had sexually oriented writings on it.
She says her replacement as principal was no longer of child-bearing age.
Castillo testified she worked hard to make St. Paul of the Cross a better institution and to increase enrollment.
“I spent time and effort to build that school up,” Castillo said.
Asked by her attorney, Mahru Madjidi, how well she got along with Visperas, Castillo replied, “It was not a good relationship.”
Archdiocese attorneys maintain in their court papers that she was let go because a comparison of the self-study book with that of a neighboring parish showed that many sections were identically worded and that the plaintiff had committed plagiarism. But Castillo’s court papers state she was in labor when the book was turned in and that there is no evidence she drafted the allegedly plagiarized portions.
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