Saturday, October 08, 2016

First Grade Teacher's Age Discrimination Suit Dismissed Under Ministerial Exception

In Ciurelo v. St. Regis Parish, (ED MI, Oct. 7, 2016), a Michigan federal district court held that federal (ADEA) and state (ELCRA) age discrimination claims brought by a former 1st grade teacher in a Catholic school are barred by the ministerial exception doctrine. The teacher's contract was not renewed after eight years of teaching. Finding that plaintiff was the type of employee to whom the doctrine applies, the court said in part:
While this Court has considered all the factors identified in the Hosanna-Tabor majority opinion, it concludes that the paramount factor of religious function ... provides the decisional pathway here. Plaintiff was unquestionably engaged in two important religious functions on a daily basis: religious teaching for 20 to 30 minutes and leading the morning prayers. These activities are the hallmark of religious exercises through which religious communities transmit their received wisdom and heritage to the next generation of believers. The First Amendment provides a shield to the church and her officials against a secular government’s incursion by way of its employment-law litigation process, which may undermine the freedom to appoint those entrusted with such matters of faith.