Thursday, June 03, 2021

Ministerial Exception Leads To Dismissal Of Part of Nuns' Sexual Harassment Claims

In Brandenburg v. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, (SD NY, June 1, 2021), two nuns who formerly worked at a Greek Orthodox monastery sued the Archdiocese and several clergy members for sexual harassment by Father Makris at the monastery. One of the plaintiffs also sued over the conduct of Father Makris when he was Dean of Students at the religious college she attended in Massachusetts. When the student reported a sexual assault by a male student, Makris made her marry her attacker to cure the assault.

Invoking the ministerial exception doctrine, the court dismissed plaintiffs' sex discrimination claims and their retaliation claims to the extent they are based on tangible employment action (hiring, firing, job assignments, promotion, compensation).  However the court held that the claims for constructive discharge survive, as do the claims for retaliation to the extent they are based on harassment and not a tangible employment action. Some of plaintiffs' defamation claims also survived the motion to dismiss.