Italian volleyball club sues player Lara Lugli for alleged contract breach after pregnancy

After an Italian volleyball club sued a former player for allegedly breaking her contract because of a pregnancy, Italian politicians and sports administrators have rushed to the player's defense.

In an interview with The Guardian, Lara Lugli, 41, said she felt she was being treated as having done some "illicit and malicious" with the pregnancy. The Guardian reported that the club, Volley Maniago Pordenone, claimed in the suit that Lugli failed to inform them that she was planning on having a baby before she signed a contract during the 2018-19 season.

"When I read the legal document, I was so angry," Lugli told The Guardian. "I’ve been playing volleyball for 25 years and had given it everything – they knew this. They said a 38-year-old woman should have known whether she wanted to have a baby and therefore should have said something. Not only did they call into question my professionalism but they are comparing pregnancy to illicit and malicious conduct – it’s a very serious thing."

According to The Guardian, Lugli was fired March 2019 after she informed the club about the pregnancy. She was the captain of the team and miscarried a month later, per The Guardian.

Lugli then requested her monthly salary of €2,500 ($2,995) for the month she played for Pordenone in the month before she found out she was pregnant. The Guardian reported that the club refused to pay and instead sued Lugli. Per a translation The Guardian did of a court document Lugli posted on Facebook, the club accused her of "disproportionately selling her experience" and "hiding her desire to be a mother." Pordenone went on to state in the suit that because of the pregnancy, the team performed poorly for the rest of the season and the club lost sponsorship money.

According to The Guardian, Italian senate speaker Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati described the case as "violence against women." Foreign minister Luigi Di Maio wrote on Facebook that it "is no longer tolerable" for a woman to be forced to choose between her family or career. Head of the Italian National Olympic Committee Giovanni Malagò said in a statement that he expressed "solidarity" with Lugli, per The Guardian.

The head of Volley Maniago Pordenone, Franco Rossato, told Italian media that the club pursued the lawsuit after Lugli requested the backpay, according to The Guardian. Rossato added that the club and Lugli mutually agreed to end Lugli's contract with the team after Lugli informed them of her pregnancy.

"Suddenly, many months later, we received a message from her lawyer for the presumed entitlement," Rossato said, according to The Guardian. "Only then did we object and so activated the clauses of the contract."

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