Supreme Court To Hear Case That Could Restore Robust Workplace Religous Accommodations

Credit: First Liberty

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The Supreme Court will hear the case of a former U.S. Postal Service (USPS) worker on Tuesday that could restore strong workplace religious accommodations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Gerald Groff, who started working for the USPS in 2012, was initially allowed to take Sundays off in accordance with his belief that he must honor the Lord’s Day, but things changed when USPS signed a 7-days-a-week delivery contract with Amazon. Groff transferred to another office, picked up shifts on Saturdays and holidays, and attempted to work it out—but his need for an accommodation eventually caused friction.

The USPS forced Groff to endure eight pre-disciplinary reviews, a letter of warning and two suspensions for failing to show up to work on multiple Sundays. Groff quit and sued his former employer in 2019.

“No American should be forced to choose between their religion and their job,” said Senior Counsel at First Liberty Stephanie Taub in a statement. “We are asking the Court to overturn a poorly reasoned case from the 1970s that tips the balance in favor of corporations and the government over the religious rights of employees.”

Groff’s case provides an opportunity for the Court to reevaluate its 1977 decision in Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, which limited protections under Title VII, ruling that the employer does not need to make religious accommodations if it will “bear more than a de minimis cost.” Congress had previously sought to ensure protections when it passed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, which stated that employers must make religious accommodations unless it would impose an “undue hardship” on the business.

“This case continues Hardison’s disastrous legacy, stripping a devout Christian of his job for observing the Sabbath while leaving his employer unscathed, contrary to the text and purpose of the 1972 amendments to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” wrote Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and 12 others GOP lawmakers in an amicus brief supporting Groff.

The Third Circuit, upholding a lower court decision, previously held that USPS did not need to provide Groff with accommodations because his absence “diminished employee morale.” Judge Thomas Hardiman dissented, arguing that suspending accommodations due to any burden placed on co-workers subjects religious protections to “a heckler’s veto by disgruntled employees.”

Groff said his boss let him know the USPS would make an “example” out of him if he did not show up to Sunday shifts as required. (RELATED: The Supreme Court Just Made It Easier To Sue The Administrative State)

“For me, it’s not just about going to church,” Groff said. “It’s about obeying the Lord and putting the entire day aside to honor and glorify him.”

Groff said he hopes he wins his case to “protect” others in his position and prevent them from living “in fear of losing their job every day when they go to work.”

Dozens of organizations and individuals have filed briefs in favor of Groff, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the American Hindu Coalition, and Education Fund.

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