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Religious Organizations May Not Be Protected Against Discrimination: St. Patricks Cathedral

Why Employees at Religious Organizations May Not Be Protected Against Discrimination

The Ministerial Exception

Under federal law, religious organizations and institutions have a primarily religious purpose and character. According to The National Law Review, employees may not be protected against discrimination due to the Ministerial Exception. Ministerial Exception is a legal doctrine that applies to religious institutions that exempt federal employment discrimination laws for practices that would otherwise be considered discriminatory. A ”minister” is defined as a person who functions in a significant religious capacity, leads a religious organization, conducts worship services or important religious ceremonies or rituals, and may serve as a messenger or teacher of its faith.

First Amendment Supreme Court Decision

The rationale for the Ministerial Exception is that it prevents state interference with the governance of religious institutions, which would violate the First Amendment to the U.S. constitution’s establishment and free exercise clauses. In the Supreme Court ruling, the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion means that even neutral laws intent on banning workplace discrimination may not be applied to a religious institution, choosing “those who will guide it on its way.”  

An example would be a case brought to a U.S. District Court against a school that fired a person on the basis that they were pregnant. If you are a teacher in a religious school, you can claim discrimination if you get fired because you are pregnant. The school has the right to claim the Ministerial Exception. Your attorney must prove that you are not a “Minister” of the religious organization. The Ministerial Exception ensures that the state does not undermine the religious authority select and control who will minister to the faithful. The government does not get to second guess religious decisions.

Small Window of Time to File a Discrimination Claim 

Generally, you have 300 days to file a discrimination claim (180 days in some cases). This isn’t much time. With the deadline in mind, employees of religious organizations/institutions need to know whether they’re even eligible to file claims. An experienced attorney can help you determine whether you’re eligible to file a workplace discrimination claim and meet your filing deadlines.

We Are Here To Help

If you or a loved one has been mistreated or feel like you are being discriminated against because of your religion, contact professional attorneys to represent you. At Edelman, Krasin, & Jaye, PLLC, we offer more than 60 years of combined experience. We have convenient office locations in Long Island, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, and we know how to approach these cases to get the results you need. Our firm is committed to bringing the compensation you deserve. Contact our New York offices by phone at 800-469-7429 to schedule an appointment. You can also contact us using our online contact form and on our Live Chat application on our website to have your questions answered at any time.