The Supreme Court is set to hear a new case that could redefine religious freedom in the workplace. The case involves a former United States Postal Service worker who claims the agency showed religious bias after he was reprimanded for refusing to work on Sundays.
The case dates back to 2012, when Gerald Groff, a Christian who observes the Sabbath on Sundays, worked at a rural post office in Pennsylvania. In 2015, the agency began delivering Amazon packages on Sundays. Groff was initially granted an exemption to have the day off, but he was later told that he would have to work Sundays.
Groff ultimately resigned when he couldn’t find workers to cover his shifts and went on to sue the Postal Service. Lower courts sided against him, ruling that his religious requests would pose an “undue hardship.”
Federal law generally requires employers to accommodate religious requests, but the “undue hardship” standard was set by the Supreme Court in 1977. It has allowed employers to deny requests for anything that poses “more than a minor cost” to the company.
Now, with support from a number of religious groups like the Sikh Coalition and Muslim Advocates, this standard will be reevaluated by a 6-3 conservative majority Supreme Court. The court has sided with conservatives in several recent high-profile religious freedom cases.
It is unclear when this case will be heard by the high court, but its outcome could have a significant impact on religious freedom and employers alike.
THE SUPREME COURT IS SET TO HEAR A NEW CASE THAT COULD REDEFINE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE WORKPLACE. IT’S OVER A CASE THAT INVOLVES A FORMER USPS WORKER WHO CLAIMS THE AGENCY SHOWED RELIGIOUS BIAS AFTER HE WAS REPRIMANDED FOR REFUSING TO WORK ON SUNDAYS.
THE CASE DATES BACK TO 2012, WHEN GERALD GROFF, A CHRISTIAN WHO OBSERVES SUNDAY SABBATH HAPPENED TO WORK AT A RURAL POST OFFICE IN PENNSYLVANIA. IN 2015, WHEN THE AGENCY BEGAN DELIVERING AMAZON PACKAGES ON SUNDAYS, GROFF WAS INITIALLY GRANTED AN EXEMPTION TO HAVE THE DAY OFF, BUT WAS LATER TOLD HE WOULD ACTUALLY NEED TO WORK SUNDAYS.
GROFF ULTIMATELY RESIGNED WHEN HE COULDN’T FIND WORKERS TO COVER HIS SHIFTS AND WENT ON TO SUE THE POSTAL SERVICE.
LOWER COURTS SIDED AGAINST HIM, RULING THAT HIS RELIGIOUS REQUESTS WOULD POSE AN “UNDUE HARDSHIP.”
FEDERAL LAW GENERALLY REQUIRES EMPLOYERS TO ACCOMMODATE RELIGIOUS REQUESTS, BUT THE “UNDUE HARDSHIP” STANDARD WAS SET BY THE SUPREME COURT IN 1977. IT HAS ALLOWED EMPLOYERS TO DENY REQUESTS FOR ANYTHING THAT POSES QUOTE MORE THAN A MINOR COST TO THE COMPANY.
NOW, WITH SUPPORT FROM A NUMBER OF RELIGIOUS GROUPS LIKE THE SIKH COALITION AND MUSLIM ADVOCATES THIS STANDARD WILL BE RE-EVALUATED BY A 6-3 CONSERVATIVE MAJORITY SUPREME COURT – WHICH HAS SIDED WITH CONSERVATIVES IN SEVERAL RECENT HIGH-PROFILE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM CASES.
IT IS UNCLEAR WHEN THIS CASE WILL BE HEARD BY THE HIGH COURT, BUT ITS OUTCOME COULD HAVE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND EMPLOYERS ALIKE.
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