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Jesuit University Lacks "Substantial Religious Character"

Gerald Lutkus

Gerald F. Lutkus

Of Counsel (Retired)

An NLRB Regional Director has determined that Seattle University "lacks substantial religious character" and is therefore subject to the jurisdiction of the NLRB. In response to a petition from non-tenure-track adjunct professors seeking to organize, the University asserted that it was not subject to the NLRB's jurisdiction because it was a religiously operated university.  The regional director disagreed finding that the University “is not a church-operated institution.” The Regional Director based his conclusion on a wide variety of factors including:

  • Neither the Catholic Church nor the Society of Jesus provides funding to the university
  • Only 30% of the school’s enrollment consists of Catholic students
  • Only a minority of the Board of Trustees must be Jesuit
  • There is no requirement the trustees be Catholic
  • Faculty are subject to no religious requirements
  • There is no provision for terminating employees for not adhering to Catholic or Jesuit values
The Seattle University case  [a copy of which is available here],  is the latest in a series of cases in which the Obama administration NLRB is attempting to assert jurisdiction over religiously operated colleges. In fact, as we have previously written, the Board has sought briefing on the question of what is the proper test for Board jurisdiction over religiously operated colleges and universities.

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