Court rules question of whether Salvation Army is a "social service" agency is one of fact
John Doe sued the Salvation Army, arguing that it violated section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act by refusing to hire him as a truckdriver. The S.A. argued that it was a religious entity, not a "social services agency" and therefore exempt from the Rehab Act's requirements. The trial judge agreed and dismissed Doe's claim. The Sixth Circuit heard Doe's appeal and sent the case back for a full trial on the merits.
The Sixth Circuit noted that while the S.A. is clearly a religious entity, that fact alone did not exempt it from the requirements of the federal Rehabilitation Act. Regardless of the latter fact, the S.A. would be subject to the Act if it is "principally engaged in the business of providing social services." The S.A. argued that since its services were its chosen means of worship, the Act should not apply to its social service activities, and the Appellate Court deemed the motivation for providing "social services" to be irrelevant to the application of the statute, if the entity meets the statutory definition. Therefore, the case was returned to the lower court to assess whether, under all of the facts, the S.A. was "primarily engaged in the provision of social services."