Should a Religious Institution be Bound by Its Written Employment Contract?

On Behalf of | Mar 14, 2012 | Wage And Hour Laws

Should a religious institution be bound by its written employment contract? I argued to the Wisconsin Supreme Court (WSC) yesterday that our client’s religious employer should be bound by the terms of a written one-year employment contract, just like any other employer. Our client was a ministerial employee of a church who was fired for reasons other than cause in violation of the “for cause” provision in her employment agreement. The WSC acknowledged during oral argument that this will be a difficult case to decide given the constitutional protection that is afforded to churches against state interference with internal church doctrine. The issue in our case is whether such constitutional protection allows a church to avoid having a civil court enforce a contract that the church voluntarily entered with its employee. The WSC will issue a written opinion in the next 6 months which will decide for the first time whether Wisconsin courts will be permitted to make neutral inquiry into a church’s decision to fire a ministerial employee in breach of a written contract.


Alan Olson writes this web-log to provide helpful information regarding employment law cases. He practices employment law throughout the United States from his offices in New Berlin, Wisconsin. Attorney Olson may be contacted at [email protected] with questions about the information posted here or for advice on breach of employment contract claims.


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