A young nurse-midwife has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against a Tampa-based medical chain claiming she wasn't hired because of her pro-life beliefs.
Back in April, Sara Hellwege, a Frontier Nursing University student from Atlanta, emailed Chad Lindsey looking for a job. Lindsey is the director of human resources for Tampa Family Health Centers Inc.
In a follow-up email, Lindsey mentioned something he spotted on Hellwege's resume -- her affiliation with the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG). He asked her if that would be a reason for her to decline an interview if offered one. He pointed out they're a Title X organization, which means they receive federal funds to provide family planning that includes contraception.
Hellwege responded minutes later saying, "Yes, I am a member of AAPLOG. Due to religious guidelines, I am able to counsel women regarding all forms of contraception, however, cannot Rx it unless pathology exists -- however have no issue with barrier methods & sterilization."
The HR director then sent the following email in response:
"Due to the fact we are a Title X organization and you are a member of AAPLOG, we would be unable to move forward in the interviewing process."
Hellwege has retained a team of attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom and is now suing both Lindsey and Tampa Family Health Centers saying she was told she could not apply for the position of certified nurse-midwife based on "her religious beliefs and moral convictions."
"There's no question about why they discriminated against Ms. Hellwege and in fact there's really no question that what they did was illegal," attorney Matt Bowman said. "That's a violation of long-time federal and state statutes which say we cannot discriminate against health professionals because they're pro-life."
Hellwege wants the company to return the federal money it received. She's also asking a judge to order the company to consider her application and is seeking $400,000 in damages.
ABC Action News emailed and called Lindsey and the Tampa Family Health Centers. They did not respond Tuesday.