Thursday, January 12, 2012

Supreme Court rules on discrimination in church-related jobs; EEOC warns on disparate impact in background checks

The Supreme Court didn’t surprise anyone by ruling that Church employees with religious leadership duties are generally not protected by federal discrimination laws.  The case, “Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission et al”, has a slip opinion at the Court’s website, PDF (website url) here.

The outcome probably sounds “libertarian”.  The practical effect of such a decision might occur if more people get vouchers and go to parochial schools.  I have known of teachers fired from such schools for “being gay”.  There is a tendency in many schools to expect teachers to take on religious duties and profess a calling.  The employee in this case may have done so.

Without going into personal details, I know of people who have been caught in "political battles" or social struggles within churches (both mainstream churches and "gay" ones) and lost jobs, after painful and messy investigative processes (sometimes starting with anonymous accusations).  Church employment is a world of its own for the "called", but it gets to be like other jobs -- subject to every human jealousy. 
There’s also some interest in the problem of denial of employment to people for minor convictions decades ago.  The Employers Association of New Jersey has a Jan. 2012 posting warning employers that disparate impact analysis applies with respect to race when using criminal background checks, especially with older records, link here

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