MINISTERIAL EXCEPTION LIMITATIONS

The United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in Biel v St. James School, 911 F3d 603 (9th Cir. 2018) yesterday. We reported on Biel in December 2018 and again in 2019. The Plaintiff, now deceased, was a 5th grade teacher in a Catholic elementary school. In addition to teaching secular subjects, she taught religion. The Plaintiff was employed under annual contracts. When her contract was not renewed, she sued and alleged that non-renewal occurred because she had breast cancer. She alleged the non-renewal violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The ADA exempts “religious entities” by allowing religious preferences in employment decisions. But, the Plaintiff argued that the exemption did not apply and that the Ministerial Exception did not apply.

The 9th Circuit agreed with both of the Plaintiff’s arguments. Most importantly, the 9th Circuit held that being required to teach Catholic religion to 5th graders was “no religious requirement for her position.” The mandatory training Plaintiff was given to be able to teach Catholic religion to 5th graders was likewise no religious requirement for the position.

The Supreme Court’s ruling can be expected in the fall.

 

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