Postal Worker Wins Right to Avoid Sunday Shifts

Postal Worker Wins Right to Avoid Sunday Shifts

The Supreme Court has ruled unanimously in favor of a Christian postal worker who was denied a religious accommodation for time off on Sundays, which he considers his Sabbath.

Gerald Groff, a postal employee in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, joined the Postal Service because he wanted to avoid working on Sundays. But he was eventually faced with working on Sundays after the Postal Service began Sunday deliveries, and a previous religious accommodation he was given was retracted.

“This is a landmark victory, not only for Gerald, but for every American. No American should be forced to choose between their faith and their job,” said Kelly Shackelford, president, CEO, and chief counsel for First Liberty, a religious freedom law firm. “The court’s decision today restores religious freedom to every American in the workplace. This decision will positively help millions and millions of Americans—those who work now and their children and grandchildren.”

Employees of faith often seek religious accommodations to honor holy days, for prayer breaks, to dress according to their religious beliefs, or to otherwise not be forced to violate their religious beliefs, First Liberty said in a statement.

Under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, employers must accommodate the religious practices of employers unless doing so would create an “undue burden” on the employer. A previous high court ruling in 1977 created a test that gave more leeway to employers if they determined such accommodations would create more than a minimal cost to the employer. But Thursday’s ruling scrapped the “de minimis” test, presumably giving employers a higher burden to prove in denying religious accommodations.

Groff’s attorney, Aaron Streett of the Baker Botts law firm, argued before the high court last spring that the 1977 ruling should be reversed by the justices.

Even two of the most liberal justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson, in a concurring but separate opinion, wrote that “The statutory standard” to deny a religious accommodation “is ‘undue hardship,’ not trivial cost” to the employer.

Groff said in a statement: “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.”

Photograph: Jemal Countess/UPI/Newscom

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