DeMarco v. Holy Cross High School

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DeMarco v. Holy Cross High School[where?]
Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.svg
Court United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Full case name Guy DeMarco v. Holy Cross High School
Decided September 1, 1993
Citation(s) 4 F.3d 166 (2nd Cir. 1993)
Case opinions
Unanimous: Walker
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting John M. Walker, Jr., Joseph M. McLaughlin, and Thomas P. Griesa

This is an employment discrimination case brought under the ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967). The appellant, Guy DeMarco, was released from employment prior to his eligibility for tenure at the age of forty-nine. Holy Cross High School argued that it was not subject to ADEA laws, and if it were that this case against it was in violation of the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The defendant also argued that the plaintiff failed to utilize the administrative remedies available.

Citation: 4 F.3d 166 (2nd Cir. 1993)

Appellee: Holy Cross High School

Appellant: Guy DeMarco


Guy DeMarco was employed by Holy Cross High School (Queens) as a math instructor starting in 1985. Although he was a lay instructor, he also led the class in morning prayer and took the students to mass. Under the terms of his contract of employment, his employment was to last five years with the option to extend that employment in five-year increments at the discretion of the employer. Upon completing his first five-year term of service, appellant was advised that a contract renewal would not be offered to him. At the end of the school, he left the employment of the appellee.[1] He then sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act alleging age played a role in the decision which the school denied.

Procedural history[edit]

A complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint alleged violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The EEOC subsequently determined that no violation of the ADEA had occurred.[2]

A lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleging age discrimination. The appellee filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the non-renewal of the appellant's contract was due to performance issues. Specifically, it was claimed that the appellee did not begin his classes with prayer or attend mass with his students. The appellant argued that summary judgment would be appropriate because enforcement of labor statutes against religious organizations was unconstitional under the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment.[3]

The decision of the district court was appealed, resulting in this decision

Question presented[edit]

Does the ADEA apply to religious schools?[4]


Maybe. ADEA can only apply to an employment action that was taken based on a claim of religious doctrine or tenet if the plaintiff does not challenge the validity of the doctrine or tenet and only asks whether the doctrine or tenet actually motivated the challenged employment action.[5]

Key points of analysis[edit]

If an employee establishes a prima facie case for discrimination, then the burden of proof shifts to the employer to establish a non-discriminatory purpose for the challenged employment action.[6]

Courts have long-recognized a distinction between ongoing governmental supervision of all aspects of employment, such as would be required under labor statutes like the National Labor Relations Act, and the more limited inquiry required by anti-discrimination statutes. The inquiry must be narrowly focused on the question of whether the stated purpose for the challenged employment action is the actual purpose for that action.[7]

The ministerial exception applies primarily to members of the clergy. The court finds that there is a pervasive religious relationship between members of the clergy and their employers (the church). In this case, the religious duties that were alleged to have been violated were easily isolated and defined. As result of this, the district could separate such duties from the age discrimination allegation for fact-finding purposes.[8]


The court noted that other anti-discrimination statutes were held to be applicable to religious organizations, with the exception of statutes that prohibited discrimination based on religious belief. Since statutes prohibiting discrimination by race, gender and national origin were already found applicable to religious organizations, it was logical (and a reasonable interpretation of the legislative history) to extend the prohibition against age discrimination to religious organizations as well.[9]

The decision of the district court was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.[10]

Other information[edit]

Although the central holding of this case is still valid, other courts have either declined to follow or declined to extend the ruling to employees of church-based organizations whose positions are "ministerial" or "ecclesiastical" in function. The determination of whether or not a position is ministerial in nature seems to be almost mathematical in its application, looking almost exclusively at the amount of time that an employee spends on religion-oriented tasks as compared to non-religion tasks.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ DeMarco v. Holy Cross High School, Paragraph 2
  2. ^ Id. Paragraph 3
  3. ^ DeMarco v. Holy Cross High School, 797 F.Supp. 1142, 1151-52 (E.D.N.Y.1992)
  4. ^ DeMarco v. Holy Cross High School, Paragraph 1
  5. ^ Id. Paragraph 15
  6. ^ Id. Paragraph 13
  7. ^ Id. Paragraph 11
  8. ^ Id. Paragraph 19
  9. ^ Id. Paragraph 24
  10. ^ Id. Paragraph 25

External links[edit]