SCOTUS Prepares to Hear Religious Discrimination Case

SCOTUS Prepares to Hear Religious Discrimination Case

( – The Supreme Court will soon hear a case that could overturn decades-old guidelines on religious freedom at work. A 1977 Supreme Court decision ruled that if a business incurred any significant cost in meeting an employee’s religious beliefs, that counted as “undue hardship.” Now a former mailman wants that changed, and three of the current justices could back his argument.

When Evangelical Christian Gerald Groff took a job as an auxiliary mailman with the United States Postal Service in 2012, one thing that attracted him to it was that he wouldn’t have to violate his religious beliefs by working Sundays. Unfortunately for him, the USPS signed a contract with Amazon a year later to deliver parcels seven days a week. At first, Groff was able to arrange a transfer to a different branch, but when that office also started Sunday deliveries, his only option was to find a colleague willing to cover his Sunday shifts. He often failed. In the end, believing USPS would soon fire him for missing dozens of shifts, he quit his job in 2019. Then, he sued the postal service for discriminating against him.

Several prominent Christian law firms, including First Liberty Institute, the Church State Council, and the Independence Law Center, backed Groff’s legal challenge. However, the first court that heard the case ruled that the USPS had already made reasonable accommodations to his religion and doing more would cause undue hardship for the service and his co-workers, who would have had to work more Sundays to cover for him. In May 2022, the Third Circuit Court backed that judgment. Now, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear Groff’s final appeal.

The “undue hardship” guidelines in religious discrimination cases were set by a 1977 Supreme Court ruling in Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison. At that time, the court ruled that if a business was subjected to more than “de minimis” costs in accommodating an employee’s religion, that was an undue hardship. It’s known that three of the present justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch — are open to revisiting that decision.

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