The Constitutionality of the Exceptions for Non-Profit Religious Organizations in Washignton
The Washington State Supreme Court has been asked to consider the constitutionality of the exemptions for non-profit religious organizations in the Washington Law Against Discrimination (RCW 49.60). The Western District of Washington has certified to the State Supreme Court in Ockletree v. Franciscan Health System, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175515 (WD WA, Dec. 11, 2012). RCW 49.60.040 excludes from the definition of employers subject to the discrimination statute “any religious or sectarian organization not organized for private profit.” Mr. Ockletree claims race and disability discrimination, which the court determined is “wholly unrelated to FHS’ religious purpose, practice or activity.” The court questions whether the exemption is constitutional in this context.
Helsell Fetterman will be closely watching this issue for its impact on our religious and other nonprofit clients.