Plaintiff Elvig, an associate pastor, sued her employer and her supervising pastor under Title VII for sexual harassment and retaliation.?? Elvig alleged that after filing a sexual harassment complaint internally and with the EEOC, she was verbally abused and intimidated, relieved of some duties, ?suspended, ?fired, ?and ?precluded ?from seeking a position at any other Presbyterian church in the United States.? ?The trial court dismissed the case on the pleadings holding that such a suit would impermissibly encroach on the Church?s free exercise rights or excessively entangle government and religion.?? ?While affirming the dismissal of her claims regarding adverse tangible employment actions, the Ninth Circuit reversed as to the plaintiff?s hostile work environment?? and?? other?? retaliatory?? conduct (verbal ?abuse ?and ?intimidation)? holding? that they are not precluded by the ministerial exception to Title VII.?? While the Plaintiff is entitled to damages for retrospective emotional distress and reputational harm resulting from a hostile work environment, the Court held she is precluded ?from? seeking ?lost ?wages ?and emotional damages for adverse employment actions, and from seeking prospective damages and injunctive relief.? ?Likewise, the Court precluded Elvig from engaging in discovery on the adverse employment actions and from using them as a basis for Church liability. ?Reinstating only Plaintiff?s corresponding RCW 49.60 claims, the Court noted that the Constitution requires application of a ministerial exception to state law as well. ?Responding to the dissent, the Court ?remarked?? that?? while?? on?? remand?? the Church could raise its argument that Elvig?s religious vow to abide by Church discipline could be a binding agreement to ?arbitrate,? the vow did not explicitly forfeit judicial remedies and Washington law which might not validate an agreement providing that the employer is the ?arbitrator.??? ?Elvig v. Calvin Presbyterian Church, No. 02-35805 (7/23/04; Trott, Fisher,Gould).
Ministerial Exception Does Not Preclude Hostile Environment Claims Against Church
Jul 23, 2004