Groff v. DeJoy
Has the Court accurately interpreted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s religious accommodations provisions?
No. While not all employee requests for religious accommodations must be granted, the current standard is too low. The Supreme Court should revise the current “de minimis cost” standard from 1977’s Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that an “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business” allows it to refuse a religious accommodation. A better definition for “undue hardship” would take into account whether providing the accommodation would involve “significant difficulty or expense.”
Groff v. DeJoy involves a part-time mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, Gerald Groff, who was denied a religious accommodation not to work on his Sabbath, which is Sunday. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that USPS could refuse his request because allowing him to not work Sundays impacted other employees. BJC believes the case should be reheard once the Supreme Court imposes a higher standard for proving an “undue hardship.”
“Religion affects the lives of individuals and faith communities in specific ways. Providing a workplace that is free of religious discrimination requires consideration of how some religious observances conflict with general work rules and business operations,” BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman wrote about the case.
BJC joined a brief with religious organizations calling on the Court to overturn Hardison.
The U.S. Supreme Court released a unanimous decision on June 29, 2023, clarifying the standard for religious accommodation cases. The Court stated that “Title VII requires an employer that denies a religious accommodation to show that the burden of granting an accommodation would result in substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business.”
“Providing workplaces free from religious discrimination requires all businesses to consider how some religious observances conflict with general work rules and business operations,” said BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman in a statement welcoming the decision. “While there will certainly be future disputes, today’s unanimous decision points us in a positive direction where all Americans across ideological and religious differences can come together to defend faith freedom for all.
From the brief BJC joined:
“Whether persons of faith seek to live their religion through holy days, religious apparel, or sacred symbols, Hardison makes it too easy for employers to deny an accommodation.”
“Hardison falls heaviest on religious minorities and the economically vulnerable.”
“To be sure, extreme circumstances could make a burden on coworkers … That can occur … because the accommodation materially disrupts the operation of the business, such as by exposing it to the risk of legal liability.”
“Amici [LDS, BJC, USCCB, ERLC, ADL] are religious organizations with a shared commitment to defending religious freedom. Some of us have joined amicus briefs in previous litigation before the Court, at times on different sides of issues. See, e.g., Fulton v. Philadelphia, Carson v. Makin, Kennedy v. Bremerton. But we are united in submitting this brief in support of petitioner’s crucial effort to restore robust legal protection for the religious freedom of all employees.”
Brief joined by BJC in Groff v. DeJoy
Filed Feb. 23, 2023
Statement reaction to decision in Groff v. DeJoy
Released June 29, 2023
The Supreme Court’s refreshing unity on religious freedom
By Holly Hollman, published by Baptist News Global on August 25, 2023
Podcast analyzing the decision: SCOTUS decides Groff and 303 Creative
Released July 6, 2023
Podcast argument recap: Searching for common ground: SCOTUS hears Groff v. DeJoy
Released April 20, 2023
Supreme Court hears oral argument in dispute over workplace religious accommodations
News update from April 21, 2023
Podcast preview: Is ‘de minimis‘ enough? Previewing Groff v. DeJoy
Released April 6, 2023
The Supreme Court’s latest religion case offers opportunity to restore statute’s meaning
Spring 2023 column by BJC’s Holly Hollman
BJC urges SCOTUS to strengthen workplace religious accommodations under Civil Rights Act of 1964
News update from March 2, 2023
U.S. Supreme Court to review threshold for when employers must accommodate an employee’s religious practices
News update from Jan. 24, 2023