Are parochial teachers ministerial employees? SCOTUS to decide

The U.S. Supreme Court granted certioriari to a pair of Michigan employment case dealing with the ministerial exception. Next term, the high court will hear EEOC et al v Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Church & School and Weishuhn v Catholic Diocese of Lansing.

Both cases were decided within five weeks of each other. At issue was how much time the teacher spent on “ministerial duties.”

First, the Michigan Court of Appeals found in Weishuhn (see You’re Fired!, February 8, 2010), the Michigan Court of Appeals said the parochial math teacher was a ministerial employee because she taught a religion class. Most of the teacher’s duties were spent teaching math but the court found that her activities teaching one religion class and participating in the church’s religious services was sufficient to make her a ministerial employee.

Later, the Sixth Circuit found in Hosanna-Tabor (see Perich v the parish, March 22, 2010) in a similar scenario that the teacher was not a ministerial employee because she didn’t “generally [teach] primarily religious subjects or [have]a central role in the spiritual or pastoral mission of the church.” The job duties between the two teachers were quite similar.

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