Oral argument: Oct. 5, 2011
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Mar. 9, 2010)
Respondent Cheryl Perich taught for five years at Petitioner, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School (“Hosanna-Tabor”), including four years as a commissioned minister. In 2004, Hosanna-Tabor hired a new teacher to fill Perich’s position after Perich missed several months of teaching due to narcolepsy. When Hosanna-Tabor did not permit Perich to return to her former position, Perich threatened to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Hosanna-Tabor fired Perich, and Perich initiated legal proceedings with the Respondent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging that Hosanna-Tabor fired her in retaliation for threatening to sue. Hosanna-Tabor argues that the ministerial exception to the ADA, which prevents employment suits against religious entities by their religious employees, bars Perich's lawsuit because she fulfilled an important religious role. Perich and the EEOC contend that there is no ministerial exception under the anti-retaliation provisions of the ADA, and that the Establishment Clause, freedom of association principles, and Free Exercise Clause do not bar her suit. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit determined that Perich did not fall under the ministerial exception because she taught secular subjects with minimal religious components. The Supreme Court will decide whether the ministerial exception applies to a teacher at a religious school who teaches both secular and religious material.