Court of Appeal Questions Ministerial Exception for Part-Time Catholic School Art Teacher

May 11, 2023 | From HRCalifornia Extra

by Matthew J. Roberts; J.D.; Labor Law Helpline Manager, Employment Law Counsel/Subject Matter Expert, CalChamber

Under both federal and California law, employers are generally prohibited from discriminating against their employees based on protected classes such as race, sex, age and disability. However, some employees of religious institutions — especially schools associated with a religious institution — cannot bring employment discrimination claims because they are regarded as ministers of the religion. The “ministerial exception,” as it is known, is derived from the religious clauses of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

In a recent case, the California Court of Appeal dove into this tricky issue, finding that although a religious school employee may engage in some religious teachings while performing their job duties, it may not be enough to exempt the religious school from employment discrimination laws (Atkins v. St. Cecilia Catholic School, No. B314220, April 28, 2023).

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