Smith v. Bray, No. 11-1935 (7th Cir., May 24, 2012). The Seventh Circuit held that an individual employee with a retaliatory motive may be individually liable under § 1981 for causing an employer to retaliate against an employee who complained about race harassment.However, the 7th Cir. held that the District Court did not err in granting motion for summary judgment by defendant-human resources official because the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to establish that his complaints of discrimination motivated defendant to seek plaintiff's termination where plaintiff's only evidence of retaliation consisted of threats of termination made by others, as well as defendant's refusal to return plaintiff's telephone calls or to otherwise speak with her.Read the case here.
Today, October 5, 2011, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments that may change what role courts can play in the hiring and firing decisions of religious institutions. The question before the Court is whether the ministerial exception to employment law litigation applies to an employee of a religious organization whose job duties include secular and religious activities in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The case is based on an employment discrimination and retaliation action brought by a teacher at a religious school claiming violations of the ADA. The employer, Hosanna-Tabor, operates a church and school. It hired the employee as a “called” teacher to teach both secular and religious classes. “Called” teachers are voted into the position by the church congregation and are required to complete various religious classes, after which they are recognized as “commissioned ministers.” While the employee was on disability leave, Hosanna-Tabor terminated her. The EEOC filed a claim against Hosanna-Tabor for wrongful termination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer based on the "ministerial exception." On appeal, the Sixth Circuit vacated that decision, applying a “primary duties test.” The 6th Circuit determined that the time the employee devoted each day to religious activity was nominal, so the ministerial exception did not apply to the employee and, therefore, the suit was not barred. EEOC v. Hosanna-Tabor Church & School, 597 F.3d 769 (6th Cir. 2010). The 6th Cir. Opinion can be found here: http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/10a0065p-06.pdf Appealing to the Supreme Court, the employer argued that the 6th Circuit’s test was improper - that the test should not compare time spent in secular and religious instruction because those minutes do not measure the importance of an individual’s religious functions and request a broader exception.