A Close Shave (or not) for the “Ministerial Exception”

Darrell VanDeusen
Darrell VanDeusen
02/14/2022
Over the past 10 years, the Supreme Court has repeatedly taken a deep dive into the Venn diagram overlap of balancing anti-discrimination laws against “freedom of religion” under that pesky First Amendment’s “church and state” thing. Relevant to our topic today, the Court addressed the scope of the “ministerial exception” in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & Sch. v. EEOC, 565 U.S. 171 (2012) and reaffirmed it in Our Lady...
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Ninth Circuit Extends Ministerial Exception To High School Principal, Barring Race Claims Against Christian School

Bernadette Hunton
Bernadette Hunton
11/29/2021
Although religious institutions are generally required to comply with federal anti-discrimination laws, certain exceptions apply. One of those exceptions is the “ministerial exception,” a legal doctrine that shields religious institutions from liability for employment discrimination claims brought by a “minister” of the institution. The exception, grounded in the religious clauses of the First Amendment, seeks to protect the rights of...
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EEOC Updates Guidance On Religious Exemptions From Employer Vaccine Requirements

Clifford Geiger
Clifford Geiger
10/28/2021
On October 25, 2021,the EEOC updated its guidance on What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.  The EEOC added six new Q&As addressing Title VII religious objections to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.  Generally, job applicants and employees may request an exception, called a religious or reasonable accommodation, from an employer requirement that conflicts with their sincerely held...
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Supreme Court Declines To Set New Standard For Workplace Religious Accommodations

Vincent Jackson
Vincent Jackson
04/07/2021
This past Monday, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Small v. Memphis Light, Gas & Water, Docket No. 19-1388, and by doing so batted back a challenge to the longstanding precedent regarding employers’ duties to accommodate religious practices of employees.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires accommodation of employees’ religious practices whenever doing so would not cause an “undue hardship.”  In 1977, the Supreme...
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EEOC Issues Updated Guidance On Religious Discrimination

Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published a new update to its 2008 guidance on religious discrimination in the workplace.  Recognizing the "altered legal landscape" that has transpired in the last 12 years, the agency issued a modernized version of its guidance that covers employer obligations and employee rights.  Specifically, the guidance addresses: Coverage, including when a particular religious practice or...
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EEOC Sues Kroger For Failure to Accommodate Religious Objectors to Rainbow Logo

We've heard a lot about LGBTQ issues in the workplace this year, including the Supreme Court's landmark June ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County.  However, a  September 14, 2020 lawsuit filed by the EEOC against Kroger in Arkansas raises a different workplace issue relating to the LGBTQ community: does an employer have to accommodate the religious beliefs of employees who believe LGBTQ practices violate their sincerely held religious...
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Hostile Work Environment Claims Not Barred By Ministerial Exemption

On August 31st, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled  a minister’s hostile work environment discrimination claim is not barred by Title VII's ministerial exemption.  The court's 2-1 decision in Demkovich v. St. Andrew the Apostle Parish joined the Ninth Circuit in finding that a hostile work environment is not a permissible means of exerting constitutionally protected control over a ministerial employee.  In 2012, St. Andrew...
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Employee’s Medical Leave Can Be An Adverse Employment Action If Caused By Discriminatory Comments

A recent case out of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois demonstrates how a supervisor’s repeated derogatory comments about an employee’s Middle Eastern background and religion that forced her to take medical leave became a triable discrimination claim.  Odisho v. U.S. Bancorp, Inc., No. 16 C 11121 (N.D. Ill. 7/24/19). Juliet Odisho worked as a Structured Finance Analyst for US Bank (“Bank”) where she reported...
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Employee Grooming Standards: Ensuring Your Policy Complies With Title VII

Last week, as many readers are likely aware, a high school wrestling referee in New Jersey ordered an African American student wrestler tocut his dreadlocksimmediately prior to a match, or else forfeit the match.  According to the referee, the dreadlocks and head covering the wrestler offered to wear violated the league’s rules.  A video of the controversial haircut hit the internet, quickly inciting responses from many people that the...
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Employment Law Test, Question Two.

Darrell VanDeusen
Darrell VanDeusen
09/13/2018
Ok, class, today’s quiz involves religious discrimination.  There’s been a lot of discussion in the news lately about when it is acceptable to act on your religious beliefs regardless of how your actions affect the interests of others.  This becomes a bit tricky when employment discrimination law says you cannot treat people differently, but then someone claims that their religious views require it. For example, “my religion doesn’t permit...
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