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Transgender Health Care Mandate Violates RFRA Rights of Catholic Entities

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Religious Sisters of Mercy v. Azar, (D ND, Jan. 19, 2021), a North Dakota federal district court in a 57-page opinion, granted a number of Catholic-affiliated health care and health insurance entities, and several Catholic employers, an injunction barring enforcement against them of transgender anti-discrimination rules that require them to provide or provide insurance coverage for transgender transition procedures. The court concluded that the anti-discrimination rules violate plaintiffs free exercise rights under RFRA. Becket Law has more background on the case.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Same-Sex Common Law Marriages Before Obergefell Are Valid

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In In re Marriage of LaFleur & Pyfer, (CO Sup. Ct., Jan. 11, 2021), the Colorado Supreme Court held that a court may recognize as a common law marriage a relationship entered into by same-sex couples before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision that legalized same-sex marriages. Chief Justice Boatright concurred in part. Justice Samour dissented. In In re Marriage of Hogsett & Nealedecided at the same time, the Colorado Supreme Court refined the test for common law marriages in Colorado.

You can learn more about this issue here.


Raising the minimum wage by One ($1) Dollar may prevent thousands of suicides, according to a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. When I read this statement it affected me powerfully, but it has even greater significance since the onset of Covid-19, which has caused major disruption of people’s lives, their physical and mental health, and their livelihood.

Interestingly, discussions about raising the minimum wage are usually considered to be wage and hour labor issues. But it appears that the topic is also a significant health issue. When many of us are wondering what we can do to enhance our lives, assist others, and even survive, here is something we can all support. What a difference a $1 makes, especially when unemployment is high and finding jobs is difficult. If increasing wages by a $1 or more an hour appears to have a protective effect in preventing suicide, supporting a minimum wage increase is the least we can do to help our fellow citizens.

Tens of thousands of people who died of suicide in the last 25 years could have been saved. Between 1990 and 2015, raising the minimum wage by $1 in each state might have saved more than 27,000 people between the ages of 18-64, with a high school education or less, according to the study. An increase of $2 in each state’s minimum wage could have prevented more than $57,000 suicides.

The lead author of the study, an epidemiology doctoral student at Emory University, John Kaufman, said “[T]his is a way you can, it seems, improve the well-being of people working at lower-wage jobs and their dependents.”

When it’s harder to find a job, the same $1 increase may be even more crucial in reducing the suicide rate. Less-educated adults are most at risk as they would tend to earn minimum wage, and this group is also at a higher risk of developing depression and having suicidal ideation. This group is also less food secure and victimized by violence.

This study is part of a surge in interest in the link between health and minimum wage within the past five years. So, let’s not wait for big business to let their advantages, perks, and good fortune “trickle down” to the average worker.

Let’s rise up the average worker by enhancing their salary, dignity and self-esteem. The side effects of this action will create economic stability for children, reduced domestic violence and child abuse. What a difference a $1 can make for our society as a whole.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-888-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME To 741741.

Faye Riva Cohen is the founder and managing attorney of the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C., located in a historic brownstone in Philadelphia, PA. She represents clients in labor, discrimination, family law, real estate, and estate litigation issues. She writes a blog called “Tough Lawyer Lady” which can be found here: https://www.fayerivacohen.com/blog/. Faye can be reached at 215-563-7776 or at frc@fayerivacohen.com.

9th Circuit Orders Injunction Against Nevada’s COVID Limits On Churches

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak(9th Cir., Dec. 15, 2020), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Nevada’s COVID-19 restrictions on worship services violate the Free Exercise clause. The court said in part:

The Supreme Court’s decision in Roman Catholic Diocese compels us to reverse the district court. Just like the New York restrictions, the Directive treats numerous secular activities and entities significantly better than religious worship services. Casinos, bowling alleys, retail businesses, restaurants, arcades, and other similar secular entities are limited to 50% of fire-code capacity, yet houses of worship are limited to fifty people regardless of their fire-code capacities.

Nevada Independent reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Supreme Court Holds That RFRA Authorizes Damage Actions Against Federal Officials

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

The U.S. Supreme Court today in Tanzin v. Tanvir, (Sup. Ct., Dec. 10, 2020), held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act permits suits for damages against federal officials in their individual capacities. In an 8-0 opinion (written by Justice Thomas), the court described the case as follows:

Respondents Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah, and Naveed Shinwari are practicing Muslims who claim that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents placed them on the No Fly List in retaliation for their refusal to act as informants against their religious communities. Respondents sued various agents in their official capacities, seeking removal from the No Fly List. They also sued the agents in their individual capacities for money damages. According to respondents, the retaliation cost them substantial sums of money: airline tickets wasted and income from job opportunities lost.

Focusing on RFRA’s authorization of suits seeking “appropriate relief” against the federal government or government officials, the Court said in part:

A damages remedy is not just “appropriate” relief as viewed through the lens of suits against Government employees. It is also the only form of relief that can remedy some RFRA violations.

Justice Barrett did not take part in the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.


                Due to the increasing complexity of law, many lawyers have become experts in very narrow areas of the law.  This expertise may be valuable when dealing with large corporations or government entities, but can be problematic when dealing with individuals.  My legal experience includes practicing with large law firms, which I did many years ago.  If an individual had questions in various areas of the law, we consulted various lawyers in different departments who were knowledgeable in those areas. Of course, contacting many lawyers for legal advice can become expensive, and the expense would normally exceed what a person of average means can afford.  Therefore, I recommend contacting a smaller law firm which handles at least several areas of the law, and do not confine your search for a lawyer to people who advertise in the media or the Internet in only a specific area.

                I will provide an example as to why it is a good idea to take a “big picture” approach when one searches for a lawyer. I received a call recently from a woman who had been terminated from her job due to lies her supervisor made up about her. She had complained about this supervisor’s harassment for some time to management, but nothing was ever done.  I told her that she should have contacted a lawyer earlier who might have been able to contact management or ask to be put in touch with the company’s lawyer, to try and resolve the problem. Also, a lawyer may have been able to negotiate with her employer that they not terminate her, but instead place her on disability leave as she was facing surgery, and she would agree not to return after the surgery, and she may have been able to maintain her insurance. Instead, the termination left her without insurance or income.   

After she was terminated she filed a complaint with one of the government agencies complaining of discrimination. These agencies have large caseloads and rarely have or take the time to fully investigate a claim, those claims are rarely investigated by lawyers, and in the best case scenario, the agency process usually takes a minimum of a year. So, once again, it is a good idea to get a lawyer involved in the administrative process as soon as possible because they may be able to resolve the claim in a much shorter period of time. The woman informed me that she was not able to return to work at this time, and in the immediate future due to surgery. I told her that effectively ended her discrimination claim as the employer was not legally required to employ her at an indefinite future date when she was able to return to work, if she was successful in her claim. However, as I probed further I determined that she had suffered a work injury at some point in time, and her current medical situation

may be related to the original work injury. As this Firm doesn’t handle worker’s compensation claims for employees, but refers them out, I will be making that referral, and if she hasn’t missed her time deadlines, she may have a valid claim. She also may have a good claim for Social Security disability benefits.

                If this woman had contacted a lawyer who only handles discrimination claims and doesn’t have knowledge of disability law or understands worker’s compensation law, and does not think creatively, she would have missed the ability to secure some funds that she will surely need to live on in the future.

                This situation is not unusual. I try to think outside the box for every potential and current client who contacts me.  And, for clients who call many lawyers, remember that lawyers are highly trained, experienced practitioners who can help you navigate the complex world in which we live. They cannot guarantee results, but they are generally better equipped to handle matters than laypersons, and they are also cognizant of deadlines that must be met.    

By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady.”

Factional Dispute In Church Is Dismissed

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In St. John Missionary Baptist Church v. Flakes, (TX App., Nov. 30, 2020), a Texas state appeals court affirmed the dismissal, on ecclesiastical abstention grounds, of a suit between two factions of a church. One faction attempted to remove the pastor through a church meeting. The pastor refused to step down and the other faction continued to pay him. In dismissing the suit, the court said in part:

Texas courts have consistently held that the relationship between an organized church and its ministers is its lifeblood, and matters concerning this relationship must be recognized as of prime ecclesiastical concern.

The court similarly held that the questions of whether members excommunicated by one faction could enter the church and whether they could vote on sale of church property were also covered by the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine. 

You can learn more about this issue here.


                In some of my previous blogs I have written about the importance of consulting a lawyer as soon as possible about your case, and retaining a lawyer at an early date. This blog is about the importance of cooperating with the lawyer you have retained. You may think this is a peculiar statement because why wouldn’t you cooperate with your lawyer?

                Well, cooperate may not be the right word.  Sometimes clients “forget” to keep their lawyer in the loop; sometimes clients do not think it is important to tell their lawyer everything about a situation; sometimes clients will lie to their lawyers and think the truth will never be revealed; sometimes clients do not think it is important to tell their lawyer certain things; and sometimes clients do not consider that their actions in the midst of a case can impact their case, and do not consult their lawyers before taking such actions.

                Examples of the above are:

  1.  When testifying at a Social Security disability hearing, my client, a tiny thin man, in his early 60’s, testified that he would and could frequently lift in excess of 50 pounds, and move furniture around to vacuum.  After the hearing, his incredulous wife, who was about twice his size, told me that she recalled only once, many years prior to the hearing, that her client lifted a corner of a sofa so that she could vacuum under it, and that he never did housework.  The client was obviously trying to appear more manly than he was to impress the hearing judge.  His testimony lost his case for him. I, and all lawyers who handle disability cases, can relay similar stories.
  •  More than one client has retained me to write their employer about the discriminatory treatment they were receiving at work, and then neglected to mention their concerns when the employer met with them to discuss their complaints, or they even resigned for “personal reasons” without mentioning the true reason for her resignation.  Sometimes I have to learn about the resignation from the opposing counsel. Not only will these actions not help their cases, but certain benefits that could have been negotiated for them may be made moot by their actions.
  • More than one client has completed forms for a government agency, or has been asked to send a letter with their specific concerns to their employer, and despite them having retained a lawyer, and sometimes even sending us the forms or letter to review first, they have submitted the forms or letter in the midst of our review.  Usually, the forms as completed or the contents of their letter are not helpful, and are sometimes detrimental, to their case.
  • More than one client has testified to something as a witness at a hearing or at a deposition that has surprised or even shocked me, because despite extensive preparation of the witness, the witness has never shared this information with me.  This information often changes the entire complexion of the case.

So, the motto of this blog is to cooperate with your lawyer, confide in your lawyer, consult with your lawyer, listen to your lawyer’s advice, do not lie to your lawyer, and tell your lawyer everything, even if you don’t think it will be helpful to your case.  Your lawyer is better prepared if he or she knows the entire situation, and has been trained how to handle all information, good or bad.  

By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady.”

Firing Only Unmarried Pregnant Teachers Is Not Proper Enforcement of Catholic School’s Morals Code

In Crisitello v. St. Theresa School(NJ App., Nov. 19, 2020), a New Jersey state appellate court reversed the dismissal of a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought against a Catholic school by one of its former teachers. The court summarized its holding:

In this action brought under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49, we are asked to determine whether a parochial school’s knowledge of the pregnancy of an unmarried lay teacher, who started as a teacher’s aide for toddlers, later taught art, and had no responsibility for religious instruction, can serve as the nondiscriminatory basis for the teacher’s termination for violating the school’s morals code, where the school never made any effort to determine whether any of its other employees have violated the school’s prohibition against “immoral conduct” that is allegedly incorporated into each employees’ terms of employment. We now hold that knowledge or mere observation of an employee’s pregnancy alone is not a permissible basis to detect violations of the school’s policy and terminate an employee.

Bridgewater Courier News reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.


                In its simplest form, every lawsuit has 2 parts.  The first part generally encompasses what the problem is, and why you feel you are entitled to some relief. The second part is what are the damages or relief you seek.  People spend a lot of time formulating their problem. Indeed, when potential clients call me to discuss their situations, they usually want to discuss every little detail of what he said and she said and did, etc., and how they were wronged, etc. This is often a cathartic process for them, and besides the verbal discussions they will often make copious notes or prepare a diary. 

                However, when I ask them what relief or damages they seek, they often seem flummoxed by this question. It appears as if they can’t get past the wrong they felt was done to them to determine what they want. Or, they ask me to determine what they should ask for in damages. 

                Damages are an elusive thing. The Internet has not been helpful as a tool to guide people as to what a realistic damages assessment is. In fact, it leads to unrealistic expectations. Every case has specific fact circumstances and individualized damages.  Further, there are many factors which impact a case, and those factors determine the results. Some of these factors may be who is deciding the case—an arbitrator, a judge, a jury, etc.; whether the case is being decided in a court or in some type of mediation or arbitration forum; who are the parties, and what type of witnesses they make; if there are expert witnesses, are they believable; what were the injuries caused; what is the law of the jurisdiction they are involved in, and on and on.

                As a result of the above, it is entirely possible and probable that even in a case with nearly identical situations, such as a person who breaks a leg in front of an apartment complex after tripping on a crack in the sidewalk, the results can be diametrically different.

                Therefore, when someone asks me what damages they should request, I can only give them an estimate or a ballpark figure. Generally the damages are whatever amount I can negotiate with the other lawyer or what a fact-finder decides to award my client.

                So, when someone tells me that they read about a case which they think is a similar case to theirs in Idaho I tell them that it is highly unlikely that the case is similar to theirs, the law of Idaho is different, and it is an individualized instance.                 A final thought is that I have noticed when a case has concluded and a client has agreed to a settlement, they sometimes have a difficult time signing the release, which ends the case, and even if they sign the release, they decide at a later time that they should have settled for more, or the opposing party didn’t apologize or suffer enough, and on and on.  I feel this because the client has been so involved in telling their story and in the lawsuit for some period of time, often years, and when it is finally ending, they feel bereft. There will be something missing from their lives. The story they have nurtured for so long is coming to an end. But, everything has to come to an end, and I feel that part of my job as a good and experienced lawyer is helping the client realize that it will be good for them to end years of drama and litigation, or that it would be financially foolhardy for them to shoulder on, or that the law doesn’t provide the panacea to their problems, and they have to accept what the law can provide and move forward.  Many clients have thanked me for assisting them in bringing to an end an unhappy situation so they can move forward.

By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady.”

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