Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Violating the Americans with Disabilities Act
Church terminates employee for refusing to work weekends to care for disabled daughter.

Key point 8-14.1. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers with at least 15 employees, and that are engaged in interstate commerce, from discriminating in any employment decision against a qualified individual with a disability who is able, with or without reasonable accommodation from the employer, to perform the essential functions of the job. Accommodations that impose an undue hardship upon an employer are not required. Religious organizations may give preference to nondisabled members of their faith over disabled persons who are members of a different faith.

A federal district court in Illinois ruled that a church did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act by dismissing an employee who refused to work on weekends in order to be home with her disabled daughter. A church hired a receptionist (the "plaintiff"). Her job required that she work on weekends. Within a week of hiring her, the church learned that the plaintiff's daughter had mental disabilities and lived in a residential care facility. Since the plaintiff could only take her daughter home to visit on weekends, she asked the church to adjust her schedule to allow her to be home with her daughter. She claimed that the church failed to accommodate her, and required her to work on weekends in violation of federal and state law. The situation continued to deteriorate, with the plaintiff refusing to work on weekends despite the church's insistence that she do so. The church eventually terminated her employment, citing her "continued poor performance" and refusal to work weekends.

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