What Did The US Supreme Court Say About Religious School Discrimination Lawsuit?

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Denis ZilberbergJuly 16, 2020Discrimination

Recently, the Supreme Court heard a case related to two Catholic schools and whether or not employees are allowed to sue their employers for discrimination. One case involved a worker who alleged disability discrimination after she disclosed her breast cancer diagnosis, and another case revolved around a teacher who alleged age discrimination. Here, the Los Angeles discrimination attorneys at the Kaufman Law Firm want to discuss the Supreme Court decision and how it can affect employees throughout the state.

What Were These Cases About?

Essentially, the two cases we briefly mentioned above deal with whether or not employees can file a lawsuit against a religious institution for discrimination. In 2012, the Supreme Court decided that the Constitution prevents “ministers” from suing their churches for employment discrimination. At the time, the Court stated that the required separation of church and state meant that religious groups “must be allowed to hire and fire individuals who serve as teachers or messengers of their faith, without court interference.” However, the Court did not specifically define who could be counted as a minister.

It seems that this decision allows religious organizations to broadly determine who is a minister for the purposes of termination. In these two cases, the organizations that faced discrimination lawsuits claimed that the teachers were, in fact, ministers of the faith, thereby preventing them from filing a discrimination lawsuit.

In a 7 to 2 decision, the Court agreed.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion and said: “The religious education and formation of students is the very reason for the existence of most private religious schools, and therefore the selection and supervision of the teachers upon whom the schools rely to do this work lie at the core of their mission.”

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor cautioned that as many as 100,000 employees in the US could lose their right to contest discrimination in the workplace.

In general, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) says that an employee in California cannot be discriminated against in the workplace due to any of the following reasons:

  • Race, color
  • Ancestry, national origin
  • Religion, creed
  • Age (over 40)
  • Disability, mental and physical
  • Sex, gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related medical conditions)
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity, gender expression
  • Medical condition
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Military or veteran status

This decision essentially allows religious organizations, including churches and schools, to define who is a minister. This could lead to an increase in terminations in religious organizations for what would be considered discriminatory reasons in other areas of employment in the state.

Let Our Team Help With Your Case

If you or somebody you love has faced discrimination in the workplace, contact an attorney as soon as possible. At the Kaufman Law Firm, Los Angeles employment law attorneys will conduct their view of your case and work to determine whether you are entitled to compensation for what has happened. This could include:

  • Front and back pay
  • Reinstatement to a position
  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Possible punitive damages against the employer

When you need a Los Angeles discrimination attorney, you can contact us for a consultation by clicking here or calling us at 310-981-3404.



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