Both federal and state anti-discrimination laws cover most employers in California. These laws prevent employers from firing or taking other adverse action against workers on the basis of their gender, race, ethnicity, pregnancy, nationality, disability, etc. However, as our Riverside employment lawyers can explain, religious institutions – including schools – are often protected by something known as the ministerial exception. What sometimes throws people is that:
- One does not need to be an actual minister – or even administrator – for the exception to be applicable.
- The ministerial exception may protect religious institutions from claims of employment discrimination that aren’t solely about religious discrimination.
The California Supreme Court in the past has expressed empathy for employees at religious institutes (mostly schools) unable to sue for employment discrimination under the law when they’d otherwise be able to, but for the ministerial exception. It remains a significant barrier to some claims.
Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a racial harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claim by a California Catholic high school principal, who the court found qualified as a minister under the ministerial exception. Continue Reading ›