The Supreme Court has decided several cases this year affecting the rights of employees. Earlier in the summer, we wrote about the Supreme Court’s landmark decision extending federal employment protections to LGBTQ individuals. Several subsequent Supreme Court decisions have impacted the rights of employees of religious organizations.
Health Care Requirements for Religious Employers
In Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania (2020), the Court addressed requirements for religious employers in their provision of health insurance coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to offer health insurance plans to their employees that provide “minimum essential coverage,” including women’s preventative care such as contraception. The federal government exempted religious employers who object to that requirement on moral grounds. Several states challenged that exemption and in Little Sisters, the Supreme Court held that the federal exemption for religious employers was lawful. Therefore, employees of religious organizations who object to certain reproductive preventive care may not be able to acquire affordable contraception under their employer’s group health plan.
New Ruling Addresses Workplace Discrimination by Religious Employers
In Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, (2020), the Court dealt more directly with an employment law issue: workplace discrimination. In the case, two former teachers at Roman Catholic schools brought cases against the schools after they were terminated, one for age discrimination and the other for discharging her after she requested medical leave for cancer treatment. The Court found that although neither teacher had the title “minister” or had significant religious training, they still performed religious functions. Based on those faith-related duties, the Court held that the First Amendment-based “ministerial exception” applied to the teachers.
This exception prevents certain employment discrimination claims against religious organization to be brought to court. In making this decision, the Court, like in the Little Sisters case, emphasized the independence of religious organizations in making decisions related to faith, doctrine, and church governance, including those involving employment and personnel.
Minneapolis Attorneys Help With Religious Employment Concerns
Both of these cases protect the rights of religious employers and Our Lady of Guadalupe particularly makes it difficult for employees to bring discrimination claims against their religious employers. However, not all wrongful behavior from religious employers is legal. Federal and state laws continue to provide protections or causes of action for employees of religious organizations for breach of contract, pension issues, and whistleblower claims, amongst others. Our Minnesota attorneys are here to support you with your employment concerns and will work with you to seek solutions. If you’re having a problem in your workplace, call us at 612-294-2600.