WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) - The Supreme Court will decide whether businesses are required to accommodate religious employees.
In a case heard by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, a Christian rural Pennsylvania mail carrier was involved. As part of his duties, he was told he would have to deliver Amazon.com packages every Sunday. Postal Service officials tried to find substitutes at first, but sometimes they were unsuccessful. The Postal Service had to do more work when he failed to show up. The man eventually quit his job and sued the company for discrimination based on religion.
This is not the first time the high court was asked to arbitrate a religious dispute. The conservative majority of the court has shown a particular sensitivity to religious plaintiffs in recent years. This includes a decision last year where the court said that a high school football coach could pray on the field following games. The court is also weighing a case involving a Christian graphic designer who wants to design wedding websites but does not want to work with gay couples.
Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1965, a federal law, requires employers accommodate employees' religion practices, unless it would cause an 'undue burden' to the business. Trans World Airlines V. Hardison from the 1977 Supreme Court decision says that employers may deny employees religious accommodations if they cost them more than a minimal amount.
Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, three of the current justices on the bench have all said that the court should revisit the Hardison Case.
Gerald Groff is a former U.S. Postal Service, in Pennsylvania's Amish country. Groff worked as a substitute mail carrier for years.
Groff balked when a contract between Amazon.com and the Postal Service mandated that carriers deliver packages on Sundays. To avoid the shifts at first, Groff moved to a rural post office that did not do Sunday deliveries. But eventually, this post office had to start doing them as well.
Groff's absences on Sundays forced another carrier to fill in for him or left his position vacant. Groff's absences, according to officials, created tension and morale issues. This meant that other carriers were forced to deliver more mail on Sundays than they would have otherwise.
Groff, who did not want to wait for his firing, said he resigned and filed a lawsuit against religious discrimination in 2019. Groff wants to see the Supreme Court overrule Hardison and say employers have to show that they are unable to provide a religious accommodation.
Biden administration lawyers who represent the Postal Service say, however, that Hardison should not be overruled, but rather clarified so it is clear that it provides substantial protection for religious observation. The administration says, as it did in Groff's situation, when an employee asks for a religious accommodation which negatively impacts on other employees that this can cause undue hardship to the business.
Groff v. DeJoy is 22-174.