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Friday, August 13, 2010

Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Overtime Case Based on "Ministerial Exception"

Today must be my day for cases I missed when they were published. Alcazar v. Corporation of Catholic Archbishop of Seattle 598 F.3d 668 (9th Cir., March 16, 2010) is a rare bird: an overtime wage case decided on First Amendment grounds. The Court summarized the case as follows:
“The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.” Everson v. Bd. of Educ., 330 U.S. 1, 18, 67 S.Ct. 504, 91 L.Ed. 711 (1947). The interplay between the First Amendment's Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses creates an exception to an otherwise fully applicable statute if the statute would interfere with a religious organization's employment decisions regarding its ministers. Bollard v. Cal. Province of the Soc'y of Jesus, 196 F.3d 940, 944, 946-47 (9th Cir.1999). This “ministerial exception” helps to preserve the wall between church and state from even the mundane government intrusion presented here. In this case, plaintiff Cesar Rosas seeks pay for the overtime hours he worked as a seminarian in a Catholic church in Washington. The district court correctly determined that the ministerial exception bars Rosas's claim and dismissed the case on the pleadings. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.
Thanks to Anthony Oncidi for noting Alcazar in his Employment Law Case Notes.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the plug, Steven. The 9th Circuit has since granted a rehearing en banc in this case.


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