Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Court Refuses To Invoke Ministerial Exception Doctrine To Dismiss Discrimination Suit At Early Stage

In Yin v. Columbia International University, (D SC, Sept. 26, 2016), a South Carolina federal district court, agreeing with a magistrate's recommendation, rejected defendant's invocation of the ministerial exception doctrine as a basis for dismissing for failure to state a claim (Rule 12(b)(6)) a Title VII and the Equal Pay Act lawsuit.  Plaintiff, a female Asian-American Ph.D., was terminated from her faculty position at CIU, a multi-denominational Christian college. She claimed racial, gender and national origin discrimination as well as retaliation. The college claimed that plaintiff (who taught in the school's education program) was required to further the spiritual and pastoral mission of the University including teaching the gospel, spreading the Christian faith, and participating in worship.  However the court held since plaintiff's complaint does not reflect these duties, it is too early in the proceedings to dismiss on ministerial exception grounds.