WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday made it easier for employees to seek religious accommodations in a case brought by an evangelical Christian mail carrier that prevented them from working on Sundays.
The case involved a claim brought by a Pennsylvania resident. Gerald GrafHe says the US Postal Service may have granted his request to be free from Sunday shifts, based on his religious belief that it is a day of worship and rest.
His case will now move further to the lower courts.
Groff argued that it would be more difficult for employees to bring religious claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination on various fronts, including religion.
The justices clarified in a unanimous decision written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito Trans World Airlines v. A 1977 Supreme Court decision known as Hardison. The Court held that employers are not required to make accommodations if they impose a minimum, or even the court’s preferred Latin term, “de minimis” burden.
That ruling builds on the language of Title VII, which states that an employer can only deny an accommodation when there is “undue hardship.”
On Thursday, the court ruled that the hardships must be minimal.
In the future, “courts will have to decide whether a hardship is substantial in the context of an employer’s business, using the general method it uses to apply such a test,” Alito wrote.
Groff, a non-professional employee, served as deputy postmaster in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area from 2012 to 2019, when he resigned. His job was to fill in when other workers were unavailable, including on weekends and holidays.
Initially Grof was not asked to work on Sundays, but from 2015 the situation changed, as Amazon packages had to be delivered on that day. Based on her request for accommodation, her managers arranged for other postal workers to deliver packages on Sundays until July 2018. After that, Groff faced disciplinary action if he didn’t go to work.
Groff resigned and sued the Postal Service for failing to accommodate his request. A federal judge said the Postal Service had provided a reasonable accommodation and that providing anything more would cause an undue hardship to the employer and his co-workers. The Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in a ruling in May.
Groups representing Christian denominations and other religious faiths filed briefs supporting Groff, including the American Hindu Alliance, the American Sikh Alliance and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Muslim women, who often wear headscarves known as hijabs, are often victimized because of Supreme Court precedent that favors employers, according to CAIR’s brief. That’s in part because uniform policies don’t take the hijab into account. The organization said that due to this, Muslim women are losing job opportunities.
The American Postal Workers Union, which has about 200,000 members, filed a court brief warning that the ruling in favor of Groff, which creates a “religious option” to schedule weekend work, would disadvantage other workers who do not share it. Religious belief.
When the court had a 5-4 conservative majority in 2020, It refused to hear a similar case An employee who worked at a Walgreens call center as a Seventh-day Adventist asked not to work on Saturday, the Christian Sabbath.
However, three conservative justices, one Report At the time they said they were open to the idea of revisiting the 1977 ruling’s definition of “undue hardship”. Soon after that case was dismissed, liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and President Donald Trump appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett, creating a 6-3 conservative majority in favor of the religious claims.
After Barrett joined the court, the justices stepped down in 2021 Many cases It asked them to review the 1977 ruling, but the court ruled in favor of other religious claims, many of which ended in June 2022. Among them, the court ruled in favor of a public high school football coach. He said he lost his job after praying on the field after the game.