The two cases underlying this weeks Supreme Court decision involved teachers who were employed by Catholic schools. Both teachers were employed to develop and promote a Catholic School faith community, and their duties included teaching religion at times in the classroom and worshipping and praying at times with their students. In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court reiterated that the four factors discussed in Hosanna-Tabor are not to be rigidly applied, but that courts must take all relevant circumstances into account to determine whether a position implicates the fundamental purpose of the ministerial exception. The Court embraced a broad, flexible view of the ministerial exception, focusing on the religious education duties of the teachers in imparting the faith to their students, a duty lying at the core of their employers message and its religious mission.
Religious employers should analyze the potential application of the ministerial exception in defense of employment discrimination claims. As application of the ministerial exception is fact-intensive, religious organizations should review job descriptions to ensure the descriptions accurately reflect the religious duties of the position and the employees role in conveying the organizations message and carrying out its mission.
Beckie Yocum is an experienced litigator who has successfully defended clients in state and federal courts across the country. She concentrates her litigation practice in the areas of labor and employment, business, real estate ...
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