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Woolley: This 'n' that in labor and employment law

Woolley: This 'n' that in labor and employment law

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Some noteworthy labor and employment developments from the past week, in no particular order:

» Court rules against Christian teacher who wouldn’t use kids’ names, preferred pronouns.

A federal judge in Indiana ruled against a high school orchestra teacher who refused, for religious reasons, to address his students by their preferred pronouns or use their chosen names. The Brownsburg Community School Corporation had adopted a rule that transgender students would be addressed by the names registered in the school database.

John Kluge objected to addressing transgender students by their registered names. As an accommodation to his beliefs, he and the school corporation initially agreed that he could address all students by their last names only, “like a sports coach.” However, the school corporation received complaints from some students and the faculty advisor of a student LGBT group.

After being told that things were not working out, Mr. Kluge held firm. He was ultimately told that he should resign at the end of the school year, although he was allowed to continue using last names during the remainder of the year.

Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson granted summary judgment to the school corporation on Mr. Kluge’s religious accommodation claim under Title VII (finding that accommodating his beliefs would have been an undue hardship for the school corporation), and also on his claim of retaliation.

» “Minister on minister” harassment is covered by the ministerial exception, court says.

Sandor Demkovich was the music director (and, thus, a “minister”) for St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Calumet, Illinois. Mr. Demkovich is gay and has a number of health problems. His pastor — who was also his supervisor — allegedly made disparaging remarks about his sexual orientation and his medical condition.

Mr. Demkovich originally sued for discrimination, and his lawsuit was dismissed because of the ministerial exception to Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Then he filed an amended lawsuit, claiming hostile work environment.

A federal district court dismissed the hostile work environment claims based on sexual orientation and marital status but allowed the disability-based harassment claims to proceed. Last year, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that all claims should proceed.

The full Seventh Circuit vacated the panel decision and ruled this week that all of Mr. Demkovich’s claims should be dismissed because they were barred by the ministerial exception.

» President has authority to fire NLRB General Counsel.

A federal judge in New Jersey ruled this week that the president has the prerogative to fire the NLRB general counsel and to designate an acting general counsel.

The employer, Amerinox Processing Inc., had argued that the president did not have this authority, and therefore that an NLRB regional director’s petition for an injunction brought under Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act should not be granted.

Tammy C. Woolley is Senior Counsel in the Opelika, Alabama, office of Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP, and can be contacted at


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