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Supreme Court’s Freedom of Religion Ruling May Create More Questions Than It Answered

Federal employment anti-discrimination laws provide a wide range of protection for employees from adverse employment actions and form a basis of a significant amount of claims and lawsuits.  However, the federal courts have routinely limited the applicability of these anti-discrimination laws when the laws interfered with the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.  In doing so, courts developed a “ministerial exception” to discrimination claims, holding that anti-discrimination laws cannot interfere with a religious organization’s dealings with members of its clergy.  Although this exception was widely accepted in the lower federal courts, the issue had only recently come before the Supreme Court in the case of Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC, where last week, the Supreme Court formally recognized the ministerial exception.  More significantly, the Court appears to have taken a broad view of who may qualify as a “minister” who would be barred from the protections of anti-discrimination laws. Read more

Football Player’s Estate Sues Fiancee to Get Auto Insurance Proceeds

I read on today that the Estate of former Cincinnati Bengal Wide Receiver Chris Henry has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against his ex-fiancee, Loleini Tonga, as a result of the December 16, 2009 automobile accident that took his life.  If you are a football fan like I am, the name Chris Henry will immediately cause you to shake your head: the classic cautionary tale of a young man who had so much promise in life only to be sidetracked time and time again by his personal problems.  Henry was a talented player at West Virginia University, but he was drafted lower than his talent would have dictated because of character concerns relating to both on and off the field conduct.  His career as a Cincinnati Bengal began in 2005 with promise, but was soon derailed by multiple run-ins with the law, which led to multiple NFL-imposed suspensions and his release by the Bengals in early 2008.  After his release, Henry seemed to turn his life around, ultimately being given a second chance by the Bengals to start the 2008 season.  While his 2008 and 2009 statistics were fairly pedestrian, the larger accomplishment was that Henry had stayed out of trouble and seemingly turned a corner in his life. Read more

Something Special in the Air?

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Deborah and Matt Lavine had apparently planned on trading in a cold, white Christmas for the warm beaches and picturesque waters of Key West, Florida.  They booked their flights through American Airlines, which required a brief stop in Miami before taking the final, short flight to Key West.  On December 21, 2008, the Lavines arrived at Regan Airport only to learn that their flight had been delayed, which caused concern that they would be unable to make their connecting flight out of Miami.  Rather than changing their flight arrangements, they relied on American Airlines’ representation that they would be able to make their connector and that American would get them to Key West.  When they touched down, the Lavines were told that they had only fifteen minutes to get to their flight, which if you have never been to Miami-Dade Airport, is no small task.  The Lavines ran through the airport, suffering from the inhalation of construction debris and narrowly made it to the terminal only five minutes before the scheduled departing time and….they were not permitted to board.  American could not provide another flight to Key West that evening, so it paid for the Lavines to spend the night in a Miami hotel and provided a free dinner and breakfast stipend.  The next morning, the Lavines boarded a new flight to Key West, preparing to enjoy their vacation and forget all about the previous evening’s experience file a lawsuit against American Airlines. Read more