WASHINGTON D.C. (WLNS) – The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday about the case of a former postal worker who refused to work on Sundays on religious grounds.
The worker ultimately quit his job and sued the U.S. Postal Service alleging religious discrimination.
It’s a case that could impact workplaces across America. Former postal worker and evangelical Christian, Gerald Groff and his legal team, asked the Supreme Court to protect employees’ religious liberties telling the justices, that “employees should not be forced to choose between their faith and their job.”
Groff used to deliver mail for Postal Service in rural Pennsylvania, except on Sundays, when he would attend worship services.
“They began to ask people in my position to deliver on Sundays or holidays, and I told them, ‘I’m not going to be able to work on the Lord’s Day at all,” said Groff.
Groff ultimately quit his job and sued.
But the Postal Service said accommodating Groff’s religious beliefs created a significant burden on his coworkers and its operations, and that Groff’s job explicitly required him to work Sundays.
The solicitor general representing the Postal Service argued to the court that “the lower courts correctly found ‘undue hardship’ on these facts,” and that Groff’s absences created direct concrete burdens on other carriers who had to stay on their shifts longer to get the mail delivered.”
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of religion unless an employer can show that “reasonably accommodating” the employee would create “undue hardship” on their business.
The supreme court interpreted that standard 46 years ago in the case TWA v. Hardison to mean anything more than a “de minimis cost” on business operations.
A majority of justices suggested during oral arguments that its precedent should be tightened, raising the requirement for employers to accommodate religious observance while balancing the business’s need to make money.
“It will mean that employers will have to show a lot more to avoid accommodating employees who asked for exceptions because of their religious beliefs.”
During oral arguments, several justices indicated Groff’s case should be sent back to lower courts for reconsideration.
What’s not clear is if a majority of the justices believe the postal service is obligated to accommodate Groff’s absences on Sundays.