Clergy & Ministers

Although a house of worship is a place of peace, for clergy, it’s also a place of employment – and sometimes, conflicts can arise that diminish that peace. At Outten & Golden, we offer legal services to rabbis, ministers, and clergy of various faiths in employment-related matters. We understand the unique employment challenges that clergy face, and we have extensive experience helping clergy effectively assert their rights.


If you are a clergy member, it's essential to realize that in the employment law context, some religious institutions enjoy certain legal protections that other employers don’t. For example, a legal doctrine known as the “ministerial exception” allows religious organizations to seek dismissal of certain employment law claims if particular elements are met. Unfortunately, although it was initially created to protect religious institutions from being forced to consider or retain clergy with beliefs or practices outside of their belief system, this legal exception, like most, is subject to abuse.

At Outten & Golden, we understand the complexities of this doctrine and the appropriate challenges to its application. If you are facing termination or other employment-related challenges, you need a legal team on your side that can help you pursue the best legal strategies to protect yourself and assert your rights.


In addition to helping clergy understand and navigate complex legal issues like the ministerial doctrine, the experienced attorneys at Outten & Golden offer a variety of other employment-related legal services to clergy, including:

  • Contract negotiations: Often, rabbis, ministers, and other clergy must negotiate new contracts or extensions of existing contracts. There may be issues of contract length, substance, and terms of renewal or termination. Our team can assist with all phases of contract negotiation and dispute.
  • Salary, Benefit, and Severance Disputes:  As with any job, salary and benefit disputes can and do arise. When they do, you need a legal team that understands your rights and how to help you assert them.
  • Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation Claims: Although in a perfect world, religious institutions would be free of discrimination and harassment, this simply isn’t the reality of all workplaces. If you find yourself in this position, the team at Outten & Golden can help.
  • Retirement and Emeritus Agreements: Some religious organizations provide compensation agreements for a retiring rabbi or other clergy member that may be linked to emeritus status. It’s essential to have a legal team on your side that can help you negotiate these agreements in a manner that fully protects your rights.
  • Mediation and Arbitration: Your contract may require mediation, arbitration, or other alternative methods of resolving disputes that arise. You will need a legal team that understands the procedural rules and complexities of these resolution methods. Our lawyers have significant experience assisting clients in resolving disputes through effective advocacy in a variety of alternative methods of dispute resolution, as well as in court litigation.
  • Various Other Causes of Action Vital to Protecting Clergy Members.*

The relationship between clergy and congregation is unique. It is a relationship that should be handled with care, and sensitivity to that special relationship is required during negotiations. At Outten & Golden, we understand that, and we have extensive experience in navigating those negotiations and helping clergy effectively assert their rights concerning the variety of employment issues they face.


When disagreements or unfair treatment escalate to the point that you need advice on whether legal action is necessary, Outten & Golden’s seasoned litigators are here to help. Whatever your situation, we’ll apply our extensive experience and understanding of the law to pursue the best legal strategies on your behalf.

If you are a rabbi, minister, or other clergy member and need legal guidance regarding an employment issue, we're here to help. Please contact us to discuss your circumstances with a knowledgeable and experienced Outten & Golden attorney.

(*Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.)