Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Court Refuses To Dismiss Title VII Suit Because Ministerial Exception Unclear On Facts

In Tucker v. Faith Bible Chapel International, (D CO, May 18, 2020), a Colorado federal district court refused to dismiss a Title VII and state common law complaint brought against Faith Christian Academy. The suit was filed by Gregory Tucker who was a science teacher and chaplain/ director of student life at Faith Christian Academy.  Gregory was fired after he organized a controversial chapel service titled "Race and Faith." Defendant contends that the "ministerial exception" doctrine bars the lawsuit. The court said in part:
I find that whether Mr. Tucker was a “minister” within the meaning of the “ministerial” exception” is genuinely disputed on the evidence presented. Defendant’s position is substantially grounded in the wording of documents, most notably the extension agreement that characterized Mr. Tucker as “chaplain” and the handbook which purports to make all teachers and other full-time employees “ministers.” To be sure, those documents are relevant to the issue. But the substance of Mr. Tucker’s position turns on the totality of the facts and circumstances of his employment, and he has come forward with facts that, if believed by the jury, could rationally support the opposite conclusion.