How does the Recent Supreme Court Decision Impact Religious Accommodations in the Workplace?

July 19, 2023

The United States Supreme Court (“the Court”) in Groff v. DeJoy recently unanimously ruled in favor of an evangelical Christian postal worker who refused to work on Sundays for the United States Postal Service (the “USPS”) due to his Sabbath observance. In its decision, the Court changed the standard of accommodation for employers.

Background on the Case

Initially, the USPS had allowed the employee to avoid being scheduled for Sunday shifts. As the post office joined other national carriers in delivering Amazon packages on all days of the week, avoiding Sunday shifts for employees became difficult. The USPS refused to accommodate the employee’s request not to be scheduled to work on Sundays. As a result, the employee sued under Title VII, the federal anti-discrimination law.

“Undue Hardship”

Under Title VII, employers are required to show that an employee’s request for an accommodation would create an “undue hardship” in order for the accommodation to be denied. Absent a clear and concise statutory definition of “undue hardship,” the Court has determined what constitutes an “undue hardship” by examining both economic and non-economic costs for the employer. Through the Court’s interpretation, “undue hardship” has been understood as not only substantial financial difficulties on the business or organization, but also extensive disruptions of the employer’s operations. Prior to the Court’s decision, in terms of religious accommodations, employers only needed to prove they faced a “de minimis” or minimal cost in order to deny an employee’s religious accommodation.

Higher Standard for the Employer to Meet

With the ruling of this case, a clarification of the standard applicable to religious accommodations emerged. Now, employers must provide religious accommodations for employees unless complying with such accommodations would impose a substantial cost on the organization itself or fundamentally change the employer’s business operations; hence, the “de minimis” standard no longer applies.

The case was sent back to the lower courts to apply this standard. Moving forward, this decision expands employers’ need to accommodate the religious practices of their employees. The Firm is available to advise employers regarding religious accommodations.

Send us a message

You can contact us via email or telephone, or by using the form below.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Search Articles

Halpern & Scrom Law Newsletter

Please enter your email address below to sign up for our topical e-newsletter:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.