Overtime Laws Do Not Apply to Ministers Employed by Religious Institutions; Court Clarifies the “Ministerial Exception”

An interesting problem arises when employees of religious organizations contend they are entitled to overtime. If the person is an “ordinary” employee (such as an office secretary), overtime laws may well apply. But if the person’s work is intimately related to the religious work of the entity, another approach governs. The courts have established a “ministerial exception” to state and federal laws and have held that ministers (and other religious employees) are exempt from such statutes. The key issue is how to determine just who qualifies as a “minister.” According to the Ninth Circuit, the test is known as the “functional approach. Thus, a person qualifies as a “minister” and is covered by the ministerial exception to state and federal regulation if (1) the person is employed by a religious institution; (2) was chosen for the position based largely on religious criteria; and (3) performs some religious duties and responsibilities. The case is Alcazar v. The Corporation of the Catholic Archbishop of Seattle. A copy is attached.