The Fourth Department, determined the “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination applied to petitioner’s complaint against his former employer, the Diocese of Buffalo. Petitioner, a priest serving as pastor of a church, alleged he was subjected ti a “hostile work environment:”
Here, SDHR [New York State Division of Human Rights] determined that it lacked jurisdiction over petitioner’s complaint inasmuch as petitioner had been a priest serving as the pastor of a church and the ministerial exception barred his claims. Inasmuch as there is no controlling United States Supreme Court or New York precedent and the federal courts that have addressed the issue are divided on the extent to which the ministerial exception applies to claims of a hostile work environment, we conclude that SDHR’s determination with respect to the hostile work environment claim is not arbitrary and capricious or affected by an error of law … . Matter of Ibhawa v New York State Div. of Human Rights, 2023 NY Slip Op 03585, Fourth Dept 6-30-23
Practice Point: There is a “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination claims by a priest against the diocese-employer. Here the priest’s hostile-work-environment petition was properly dismissed based on the exception.