Italian volleyball player fired over pregnancy sparks outcry

·2-min read

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian volleyball club have refused to pay the back payment of a former player who was fired because she became pregnant, triggering outcry among the country's politicians and sports chiefs.

Lara Lugli, 41, was sacked by her amateur club Volley Pordenone in March 2019 after she told club executives she was expecting a baby.

After suffering a miscarriage in April, Lugli asked the club to pay her one month's back salary.

Volley Pordenone refused and took the case to court, saying Lugli had failed to tell them she planned to have a baby when she signed for the club, in order to get a better wage.

Volley Pordenone argued that Lugli's departure severely damaged the team's performance, scared off sponsors and affected their finances, a court document she posted on Facebook showed.

"It is unbelievable that becoming pregnant should be considered unprofessional and criminalised like taking cocaine and testing positive for doping," Lugli told daily newspaper la Repubblica on Wednesday.

Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati, the president of the upper house Senate, called Lugli's case "violence against women". Giovanni Malago, head of the Italian National Olympic Committee, expressed his "solidarity" with her.

Volley Pordenone said they had been forced to close their website due to "threats and insults".

"The immediate termination of our relationship in case of pregnancy was agreed in the contract," the club said, adding that they had decided not to demand financial compensation from Lugli even though this was envisaged in the mutually agreed terms.

"She filed us with an order to pay (the back salary) and we felt betrayed... We did the only possible thing: defending ourselves on the basis of the contract she signed," the club said.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Gavin Jones and Ed Osmond)