Grussgott v. Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Inc., No. 17-2332 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
In 2013, Grussgot was hired by a Milwaukee private school that provides non-Orthodox Jewish education. The school employs a rabbi and has a chapel and Torah scrolls but does not require its teachers to be Jewish. Grussgott claimed that she was solely a Hebrew teacher and had no responsibilities that were religious in nature. The school maintained that Grussgott was employed as a Hebrew and Jewish Studies teacher. Grussgott underwent treatment for a brain tumor and ceased working during her recovery. She has suffered memory and other cognitive issues. During a telephone call from a parent, Grussgott was unable to remember an event, and the parent taunted her. Grussgott’s husband (a rabbi) sent an email, from Grussgott’s work email address, criticizing the parent. The school then terminated Grussgott. Grussgott sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The school argued that because of Grussgott’s religious role, the ADA's ministerial exception barred her lawsuit. The district court agreed without considering the merits of her ADA claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Even taking Grussgott’s version of the facts as true, she falls under the exception as a matter of law. Her integral role in teaching Judaism and the school’s motivation in hiring her demonstrate that her role furthered the school’s religious mission. The school’s nondiscrimination policy did not waive the exception’s protections.