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‘Ministerial exception’ applies to music director

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

If yours is a religious organization, many employment discrimination laws may not apply to some employees who perform “ministerial” work.

Recent case: Music Director Philip Cannata was fired from his job at a Catholic parish. Cannata claims he was terminated because of his age and disability. The parish said Cannata couldn’t sue because his work was a ministerial part of the church’s religious mission.

The court agreed. It noted that Cannata chose music for religious ceremonies and participated in fu­nerals, weddings and other serv­ices. It said his advice and control over musical selections indicated he was acting in a religious capacity. The court dismissed Cannata’s suit. (Cannata v. Catholic Diocese of Austin/St. John Neumann Catholic Church, No. A-1-CA-375, WD TX, 2011)

Note: The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard a case involving the ministerial exemption. Its decision could narrow the law on this issue.

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