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A former pastoral associate whose contract was not renewed because she wasliving with the husband of a parishioner lost her bid to sue the churchunder a New York law that prohibits termination because of an employee’srecreational activities. Nassau County Acting Supreme Court Justice Daniel Martin ruled thatCatherine Bilquin could not sustain a claim under New York Labor Law � 201-d(1)(b)after the church refused to renew her contract as a pastoral associate atSt. Patrick’s Church at Glen Cove, N.Y. According to the decision in Bilquin v. Roman Catholic Church, 018588/99,released last week, Bilquin’s co-habitation with the husband of aparishioner was “inconsistent with the teachings and values of the Catholicfaith.” As the pastoral associate for faith formation, Bilquin was responsiblefor the parish’s religious education and training program. The position,the decision stated, “is at the center of spiritual development of theparishioners.” Bilquin had argued that her co-habitation constituted “recreationalactivities” under the law, which are defined as “any lawful, leisure-timeactivity.” Finding her reliance on the decisional law “unavailing andunconvincing,” Justice Martin referred to the statute’s language thatenumerates recreational activities to include sports, games, hobbies,exercise, reading, television viewing, movies and “similar materials.”Because the statute specifically named those activities, the judge reasoned,personal relationships fell outside the scope of the legislative intent. After her contract was not renewed, Bilquin also filed a complaint withthe New York Division of Human Rights alleging gender discrimination inviolation of the Executive Law. The action was dismissed for lack ofjurisdiction on the grounds that the employer was a religious institutionthat made its decision in order to promote religious principles, anexemption under New York State Human Rights Law. NO HIGH COURT RULING Whether dating or co-habitation falls under Labor Law � 201-d(1)(b) has notbeen decided by the State Court of Appeals, noted employment attorney JohnBauer, who is not associated with the case. Bauer is a partner withMineola-based Rains & Pogrebin, which practices employment law exclusively. He added, however, that federal courts interpreting the state law have heldthat the provision does include dating or co-habitation as a recreationalactivity. Bauer said that even if Justice Martin had deemed Bilquin’s activity to be recreational, he may have determined that itcreated a conflict of interest with her employment, which is addressed inanother provision of the law. “You can make an argument that if it affects the business relationship, evenif dating or co-habitation is considered recreational activity covered bystatute, the employer would have a defense,” Bauer said. Representing Bilquin was John Ray, of Miller Place. The law firm ofBennett, Rice & Schure, of Rockville Centre represented the Diocese ofRockville Centre and the other named defendants.

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