Seventh Circuit: Defines Application of the Ministerial Exception in Discrimination Claims

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February 13, 2018

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In Miriam Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Inc., the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal used a “totality of circumstances” approach to determine that a Hebrew teacher’s position was ministerial in nature, rendering her ineligible to pursue an employment discrimination claim under the Americans with Disability Act.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court used four factors to determine whether an employee’s role is ministerial: (1) formal job position title, (2) substance of the position based on the title, (3) the employee’s use of the title, and (4) the religious functions the employee performed for the religious institution. Here, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal used these factors to analyze the employee’s claim, and indicated that the factors must be reviewed under the totality of the circumstances. Specifically, although the employee’s job title of “Hebrew teacher” was not ministerial nor did she hold herself out as a religious leader, when looking at the totality of the circumstances, the court stated that the facts supporting the substance of the job title and her actual job functions outweighed those considerations.

The Seventh Circuit’s decision emphasizes the need to clearly communicate an employee’s job title, duties, and the organization’s expectations.

Action Items

  1. Have job descriptions reviewed for consistency with ministerial duties, if applicable.
  2. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2018 ManagEase

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