Wednesday, February 14, 2018

7th Circuit: Hebrew Teacher Covered By "Ministerial Exception" Doctrine

In Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Inc., (7th Cir., Feb. 13, 2018), the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the ministerial exception applies to prevent a former Hebrew teacher in a Jewish day school from suing for her firing in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Plaintiff taught first and second graders. In concluding that plaintiff should be classified as a "ministerial" employee, the court said in part:
... it is sufficient that the school clearly intended for her role to be connected to the school’s Jewish mission....  Milwaukee Jewish Day School expected Grussgott to follow its expressly religious mission and to teach the Tal Am curriculum, which is designed to “develop Jewish knowledge and identity in [its] learners.”.... This, combined with the importance of Grussgott’s Judaic teaching experience in her being hired, confirms that the school expected her to play an important role in “transmitting the [Jewish] faith to the next generation.”.... Even if Grussgott did not know this, the purpose of the ministerial exception is to allow religious employers the freedom to hire and fire those with the ability to shape the practice of their faith. Thus, it is the school’s expectation—that Grussgott would convey religious teachings to her students— that matters.