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E.E.O.C. v. ST. FRANCIS XAVIER PAROCHIAL SCHOOL

October 28, 1999

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ST. FRANCIS XAVIER PAROCHIAL SCHOOL AND ST. FRANCIS XAVIER CHURCH, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stanley S. Harris, District Judge.

OPINION

Before the Court are plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment and defendants' motion for summary judgment, the parties' respective oppositions and replies thereto, and the parties' supplemental memoranda on defendants' legal status. Upon consideration of the entire record, the Court grants defendants' motion. "Findings of fact and conclusions of law are unnecessary on decisions of motions under Rule 12 or 56. . . ." Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a); Summers v. Department of Justice, 140 F.3d 1077, 1079-80 (D.C.Cir. 1998). Nevertheless, the Court sets forth its reasoning.

BACKGROUND

This case was brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in 1994 against the St. Francis Xavier Parochial School (the "School") and the St. Francis Xavier Church (the "Church"). As explained more fully below, the School, the Church, and the St. Francis Xavier Child Development Center (the "Child Development Center") are part of the St. Francis Xavier Parish (the "Parish"), which itself is part of the Archdiocese of Washington (the "Archdiocese"). In its complaint, the EEOC alleges that the School and the Church violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101-12213, by refusing to interview Roberta Stein for a Music Teacher position at the School in 1992. Stein has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. The EEOC further claims that defendants failed to hire Stein because of her disability.

After engaging in additional discovery, the parties filed dispositive motions on the issue of whether defendants meet the definition of an employer under the ADA. On August 5, 1998, the Court granted defendants' motion on the ground that plaintiff had not presented sufficient evidence to establish that, even were the three St. Francis entities to be aggregated, defendants employed "25 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding year."*fn1 See 42 U.S.C. § 12111(5)(A). Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration of that decision. On September 14, 1998, the Court granted plaintiff's motion for reconsideration, concluding that it had erred in its initial interpretation of the ADA`a 25-employee requirement and in its previous determination that plaintiff's evidence on that requirement was insufficient. EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial School, 20 F. Supp.2d 66, 68 (D.D.C. 1998). Concluding that plaintiff's evidence was sufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment, the Court renewed its consideration of whether defendants were a covered employer under the ADA. Specifically, the Court turned to the issue of whether aggregation of employees was required under the theory that the Church, the School, and the Child Development Center constituted a "single employer." Id. Nevertheless, uncertainty surrounding defendants' legal status impeded the Court's analysis on the aggregation issue because the record indicated that defendants, as well as the Child Development Center and the Parish, were divisions of the Archdiocese, which is organized as a corporation sole. Id. A determination that these entities are divisions of a corporation has two implications. First, it suggests that defendants are not proper parties to the lawsuit because case law reflects that unincorporated divisions of a corporation lack the capacity to sue or be sued. Id. at 69. Second, assuming defendants can be sued, it leads to the conclusion that the employees of the Church, the School, and the Child Development Center should be aggregated for the purpose of the 25-employee requirement. Id. at 68.

The Court at that point declined to make a final determination on defendants' legal status because it found that the parties had not adequately discussed the relationship between the Church, the School, the Child Development Center, the Parish, and the Archdiocese. Accordingly, the Court directed the parties to submit supplemental memoranda addressing defendants' legal status, and deferred consideration of plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment and defendants' motion for summary judgment pending those submissions.*fn2 Upon consideration of the parties' supplemental memoranda and the entire record, the Court concludes that defendants are entitled to summary judgment because they lack legal capacity to be sued.*fn3

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment may be granted only if the pleadings and evidence "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In considering a summary judgment motion, all evidence and the inferences to be drawn from it must be considered in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Mere allegations in the pleadings, however, are not sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion; if the moving party shows that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

DISCUSSION

Although plaintiff does not deny that defendants are unincorporated divisions of a corporation, it argues that defendants may be sued for violations of the ADA because Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(b)(1) gives them the capacity to be sued, the Parish is sufficiently autonomous from the Archdiocese to render defendants suable entities, and religious organizations have been sued for violations of employment discrimination laws in the past. After reviewing the relationships between the different religious entities in this case, the Court concludes that plaintiff's arguments lack merit.

A. Relationships Between the Religious Entities

By an act of the United States Congress on May 28, 1948, the Archbishop of Washington was incorporated as a corporation sole.*fn4 See Defs.' Supp. Mem., Ex. 2. As an entity, the Archbishop of Washington is more commonly referred to as the Archdiocese. See Aff. of Rev. Bava ¶ 2.*fn5 The Archdiocese possesses traditional corporate attributes, such as the powers to contract, to acquire property, and to sue and be sued. See Defs.' Supp. Mem., Ex. 2. The Archdiocese is made up of all of the Catholic parishes and related facilities within its territorial jurisdiction, which encompasses the District of Columbia and five surrounding Maryland counties. See Dep. of Rev. Bava, April 21, 1998 ("Bava Dep. II"), 6:4 — 6:15. Although the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church views each parish as a separate entity for religious purposes, the parishes are not separately incorporated under civil law. See Aff. of Rev. Bava ¶ 2.

St. Francis Xavier Parish (the "Parish") is a parish within the territorial jurisdiction of the Archdiocese. It operates independently of other parishes within the jurisdiction. The Archdiocese owns all of the Parish's property — the Parish does not own any independent assets.*fn6 See EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial School, 20 F. Supp.2d at 68. The Parish consists of the Church, the School, the Child Development Center, an adjacent rectory, and a convent. See Bava Dep. II, ...


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