United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm, United States District Judge.
Shand, who is representing herself in this lawsuit, claims
that, while she was working for Charles E. Smith Life
Communities, Hebrew Home of Greater Washington (“Hebrew
Home”) as a geriatric nursing assistant, her employer
failed to grant her request for a religious accommodation.
Compl., ECF No. 2. In response, she resigned, and she views
her resignation as a constructive discharge. Id. at
1, 3. Believing that Hebrew Home’s denial of her
request and the constructive discharge were in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), Shand filed
suit in state court, id., and Hebrew Home removed
the suit to this Court, ECF No. 1. Hebrew Home has moved for
summary judgment, arguing that it is a religious organization
and therefore “exempt from Title VII’s
prohibition against employment discrimination based on
religious beliefs under 42 U.S.C. 2000e-1(a).” ECF No.
Shand has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, in which
she objects to Hebrew Home “being exempt from [T]itle
VII’s prohibition against employment discrimination
based on religious belief.” Pl.’s Opp’n
& Mot. 1. Because Title VII’s religious
organization exemption applies to Hebrew Home,
Defendant’s Motion is granted and Shand’s is
judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates,
through “particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . .
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials,
” that “there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see
Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th
Cir. 2013). “A disputed fact presents a genuine issue
‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the non-moving party.’”
Cole v. Prince George’s Cty., 798 F.Supp.2d
739, 742 (D. Md. 2011) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). If the party
seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there is no
evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case, the
burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence
that shows that a genuine dispute exists as to material
facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585–87 & n.10 (1986). The
existence of only a “scintilla of evidence” is
not enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251.
this Court is required to liberally construe documents that
self-represented litigants file and hold them to a less
stringent standard than those that attorneys draft, see
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Estelle
v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), the requirement of
liberal construction does not mean that the Court can ignore
a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set
forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district
court, see Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901
F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). Rather, the Court must also
abide by the “affirmative obligation of the trial judge
to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from
proceeding to trial.” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens
Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
to Title VII, an employer cannot “discriminate against
any individual with respect to his compensation, terms,
conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such
individual’s . . . religion.” 42 U.S.C. §
VII is not without bounds however, and has long included an
exemption for religious organizations in certain
circumstances. Specifically, § 2000e–1(a) provides
This subchapter [of Title VII] shall not apply to ... a
religious corporation, association, educational institution,
or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a
particular religion to perform work connected with the
carrying on by such corporation, association, educational
institution, or society of its activities.
Kennedy v. St. Joseph’s Ministries, Inc., 657
F.3d 189, 192 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-1(a)). The term “employment” in this
statute is “not limited to hiring and firing
decisions.” Id. at 193. Rather, it covers
claims that “arise from [an employee’s]
‘state’ of ‘being employed, ’”
such as “discharge, harassment, and retaliation.”
Id. (quoting Black’s Law Dictionary 9th ed.).
Indeed, “§ 2000e-1(a) exempts religious
organizations . . . from [employees’] claims of
religious discrimination, ” id. at 196, as
well as from claims of discriminatory discharge, id.
at 192– 93.
to accommodate is a form of religious discrimination. See
Rayyan v. Va. Dep’t of Transp., 719 Fed.Appx. 198,
205 (4th Cir. 2018) (citing Chalmers v. Tulon Co. of
Richmond, 101 F.3d 1012, 1017 (4th Cir. 1996)).
Consequently, if Hebrew Home is a religious organization,
then it is exempt from both Shand’s failure to
accommodate claim and her constructive discharge claim.
See Kennedy, 657 F.3d at 192–93, 196.
Title VII, the Fourth Circuit, nor this Court has defined
“religious organization” or “religious
institution” for purposes of the religious organization
exemption, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1(a). Yet, the Fourth
Circuit has held that, for purposes of the “ministerial
exception” of the FLSA, which is “coextensive in
scope” with the ministerial exception in Title VII
(another exception to Title VII, available when the
organization qualifies as a religious organization and the
plaintiff qualifies as a minister), a religious organization
is one whose “mission is marked by clear or obvious
religious characteristics.” Shaliehsabou v. Hebrew
Home of Greater Wash., Inc., 363 F.3d 299, 306, 310 (4th
Cir. 2004); see also Curl v. Beltsville Adventist
Sch.., No. GJH-15-3133, 2016 WL 4382686, at *8 (D. Md.
Aug. 15, 2016) (citing Shaliehsabou).
Home describes itself as follows:
1. Hebrew Home is a nursing home located in Rockville,
Maryland. See Ex. 1 (Declaration of Terri
Tanner-Hill) at 3. Hebrew Home is a non-profit charitable and
religious corporation exempt from taxation under ...