The Evolving Ministerial Exception to Employment–Related Claims Against Religious Institutions

By Mark Goidell, Esq.
Nassau Lawyer
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Claims of employment discrimination or hostile work environment/harassment in religious affiliated institutions compete against the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment. The legal principles guiding this conflict are starting to emerge although much clarity is still required. Mark’s article discusses the current status of the ministerial exception and remaining issues in its application to employment claims.

Printed with permission by the Nassau County Bar Association

The ministerial exception bars discrimination and retaliation claims arising from the employment decision of religious institutions regarding “ministers.” The exception has its genesis in both the Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”1 The Free Exercise Clause safeguards religious institutions’ “right to shape [their] own faith and mission through [their] appointments,” and the Establishment Clause prohibits “government involvement in [ ] ecclesiastical decisions.”2 Together, they “bar the government from interfering with the decision of a religious group to fire one of its ministers.”3

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The Impaired Attorney and Obligations of Law Firms

By Mark Goidell, Esq.
Nassau Lawyer
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Printed with permission by the Nassau County Bar Association

Your partner is frequently late for appointments, depositions or court appearances, and her absences are mounting. Increasingly, she fails to timely return telephone and email messages. Occasionally, she returns from lunch and you detect the odor of alcohol on her breath. She may be socially isolated and asking others to cover for her. You meet with her and review her files. She promises to improve. A few weeks later, her concerning behaviors reoccur. What are your obligations? What must you do and what should you do? Continue reading “The Impaired Attorney and Obligations of Law Firms”

The Faithless Servant Doctrine

By Mark Goidell, Esq.
Nassau Lawyer
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Printed with permission by the Nassau County Bar Association

One of the most draconian remedies in our jurisprudence arises in claims that employees violate their duty of loyalty to their employers by faithless misconduct. The faithless servant doctrine provides for the forfeiture of employee compensation during the period of disloyalty. “An employee ‘forfeits his right to compensation for serviced rendered by him if he proves disloyal.'” Continue reading