Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC, 565 U.S. ___, 132 S. Ct. 680 (2012)

Cheryl Perich was a “called” teacher for the church and also had the formal title of “Minister of Religion, Commissioned.” After Perich developed narcolepsy, the church replaced her with a lay teacher and eventually terminated her employment for “insubordination and disruptive behavior.” Perich filed a claim with the EEOC, claiming she had been terminated in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Invoking the “ministerial exception,” the church argued the lawsuit was barred by the First Amendment because Perich’s claims concerned the employment relationship between the church and one of its ministers. The district court agreed and granted the church’s summary judgment motion, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. In this opinion, the Supreme Court reversed the Sixth Circuit, holding that Perich was a minister within the meaning of the “ministerial exception” and that an award of relief to Perich would operate as a penalty on the church for terminating an unwanted minister. See also White v. City of Pasadena, 671 F.3d 918 (2012) (employee’s prior litigation against the city in state court precluded this action alleging disability discrimination).