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Court sides with workers in religious accommodations case

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Peter Titmuss | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 07/03/23

"Our nation has a long history of protecting its employees from being treated differently at work just because of their faith.”

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has sided with a former US postal worker who claims he was denied religious accommodation to refrain from work on Sundays. The unanimous decision of SCOTUS was handed down on Monday, June 29, but the case is not over yet, as it will now return to the lower court to be reconsidered.

The case dates back to 2019, when Gerald Groff, an Evangelical Christian, sued the USPS for disparate treatment and a failure to accommodate his religious needs. The problems arose when the USPS began accepting contracts from Amazon to deliver packages on Sundays. Groff worked with his employer as much as he could, accepting extra shifts during the week to make up for his Sunday absences and even transferring to a different location, but eventually he was penalized for not working on the sabbath.

Feeling he had little recourse, Groff resigned his position and sued the USPS, a case which he needed to appeal to the Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled that he had been denied fair religious accommodation. According to USA Today, the court found that the USPS failed to show that such an accommodation would come at “substantial increased costs” to the business.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote:

“Faced with an accommodation request like Groff’s, an employer must do more than conclude that forcing other employees to work overtime would constitute an undue hardship. Consideration of other options would also be necessary.”

While the decision of SCOTUS does not change the outcome of the initial case, OSV News reports that it will now be sent back to the lower court, where arguments will be reconsidered. In a statement, Groff expressed his gratitude to the court for hearing his case. He said:

“I am grateful to have had my case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and that they have decided to uphold religious liberty. I hope this decision allows others to be able to maintain their convictions without living in fear of losing their jobs because of what they believe.”

Aaron Streett, Groff’s representative and partner at Baker Botts LLP, hailed the Supreme Court’s decision as a defense of religious liberty, stating:

“We are thrilled the Court today recognized that an America that values religious pluralism should respect the religious liberty rights of every employee. Our nation has a long history of protecting its employees from being treated differently at work just because of their faith,” Streett said. “This decision is consistent with that history and is a tremendous win for all people of faith.”

LawReligious FreedomUnited States
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