Groff v. DeJoy: Protect The 1st Applauds SCOTUS Decision to Revive Postal Worker’s Request for Religious Accommodation
The U.S. Supreme Court today unanimously revived the case of a former postal employee, Gerald Groff, an evangelical Christian who claims his rights under Title VII of the civil rights law were violated when the Postal Service denied his request to refrain from working on Sunday.
In oral argument in April, the Justices had focused on how much disruption and hardship an employer would have to suffer in order to justify denying an employee a religious accommodation. In today’s ruling, the Court threw out the prevailing standard that businesses shouldn’t be required to suffer more than “de minimus” harm from a religious accommodation. Instead, the Court held that a business or other employer must accommodate a religious practice unless the accommodation would create a “hardship” that is “substantial in the overall context of an employer’s business.”
Writing for the unanimous Court, Justice Alito also made clear that the range of cognizable hardships is narrow: “An employer who fails to provide an accommodation has a defense only if the hardship is ‘undue,’” he wrote, “and a hardship that is attributable to employee animosity to a particular religion, to religion in general, or the very notion of accommodating religious practice cannot be considered ‘undue.’”
Justice Alito also wrote that it is not enough for an employer to conclude that forcing other employees to work overtime would constitute an undue hardship. “Consideration of other options, such as voluntary shift swapping, would also be necessary.”
“In throwing out the lower court ruling, the Supreme Court today took a major step toward widening respect for religious liberty,” said Gene Schaerr, general counsel of Protect The 1st. “In this unanimous ruling, the Justices made clear that, absent serious harm to the actual practice of a business, Title VII – which reflects in the private sphere the First Amendment’s protection for free exercise of religion in the public sphere – requires employers to respect an employee’s religious needs.”