June 16, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Christian-Themed Child Care Center Not Religious Organization for Purposes of CESA

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in A Child’s Touch v. Industrial Claim Appeals Office on Thursday, December 31, 2015.

Child Care Center—Elementary School—Kindergarten—Unemployment Compensation Benefits—Religious Organization—Exemption.

A Child’s Touch is a state-licensed child care center providing infant and toddler day care, preschool, and kindergarten programs for children from 6 weeks to 6 years of age, and a summer camp for children ages 6 to 12 years. Christian-themed iconography, prayers, and devotions are incorporated into its daily curriculum. Claimant served as a maintenance worker at A Child’s Touch from approximately 1997 until his termination in September 2013, when his position was eliminated while he was on medical leave for double hip replacement surgery. A Child’s Touch denied claimant’s unemployment compensation claim, and the hearing officer upheld the denial. The Industrial Claim Appeals Office (Panel) set aside the hearing officer’s decision and awarded claimant benefits.

On appeal, A Child’s Touch argued that claimant was not in covered employment and that, as a religious organization, it was exempt from unemployment compensation taxes under the Colorado Employment Security Act (CESA). A Child’s Touch was not principally supported by a church or association of churches at the relevant period of time. Further, a child care facility that offers day care, preschool, and kindergarten, but does not teach any higher grades, is not an “elementary school” for purposes of a religious exemption from unemployment compensation taxes under CRS § 8-70-140(1)(a). Accordingly, the Panel correctly determined that A Child’s Touch is not entitled to a religious exemption from unemployment compensation taxes under CESA. Accordingly, the Panel’s order was affirmed, and the case was remanded to the Division of Unemployment Insurance to determine claimant’s entitlement to and eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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