Supreme Court Sides With Postal Carrier Who Refused to Work on Sabbath

The Supreme Court on Thursday expanded protections for religious workers in a case in which a US Postal Service mail carrier refused to work on the Sabbath.

In a unanimous decision, the judges rejected a long-used test to determine what accommodations employers must give to religious workers, but decided not to rule on the merits of the case. refused and remanded the case to the lower court for consideration by the new court. standard.

Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote to the court that the case provided “the first opportunity in almost 50 years” to explain the nuances of how workplaces must accommodate the religious demands of employees. said he gave it to me.

Judge Alito said that before an employer can deny an employee’s request or religious accommodation, it must “show that the burden of providing the accommodation would result in a substantial increase in the costs associated with conducting that particular business. No,’ he wrote.

The decision could affect countless workplaces, and many employers could require significant changes to accommodate religious workers.

The ruling is the latest in a series of court rulings focused on expanding the role of religion in public life, sometimes at the expense of other values ​​such as gay rights and access to contraception. be.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has ruled that high school football coaches have a constitutional right to pray at the 50-yard line after team games, while state programs that support private schools in Maine and Montana have religious implications. It was decided that it should also include Philadelphia’s Catholic Social Services Department may refuse to cooperate with same-sex couples applying for adoption, in violation of city rules, and the Trump administration has warned anti-religious employers to offer contraception to female workers. may allow refusal to apply

The ruling may be less controversial than recent court rulings on religion, partly because adhering to Sabbath observance may not divide the American public in line with its usual policy. In fact, liberal judges have tried in the past to protect workers from reprimand or dismissal for following their faith, and all three in court signed the verdict.

The lawsuit was filed by Gerald Grof, an evangelical Christian and former missionary who worked as a mail carrier. After the Postal Service struck a deal with Amazon to deliver packages on Sundays in 2013, Groff had to choose between his faith and his livelihood and was disciplined for missing work. He said he chose to retire.

“It’s very exciting to see that religious freedom is upheld and people don’t have to go through what I went through,” Groff said in an interview Thursday afternoon. “I felt like I was being forced to make a choice between what the Post Office wanted and what God wanted for me. I hope that will inspire people.”

He advocates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that requires employers to “reasonably accommodate” the religious practices of their employees without “imposing undue hardship” on the business of the company. filed a lawsuit based on

He was represented by the First Liberty Institute, an organization that represents him and claims to be the nation’s largest legal organization dedicated to defending religious freedom.

First Liberty President and Chief Counsel Kelly Shackelford welcomed the decision, saying it restored “religious freedom to all Americans in the workplace.”

“This decision will positively help millions of Americans, including those currently working and their children and grandchildren,” she said.

American atheists, who advocated secularism in government policy and filed court briefs in favor of the Postal Service, said the ruling “puts more of the burden on atheists while reducing the loopholes, conveniences, and ‘rights of religious people’. ‘ continues a worrying trend of increasing A humanist and an atheist. “

In the 1977 precedent, Trans World Airlines vs. Hardison, stood before Mr. Grof. The decision states that employers are not required to accept workers for initiatives that impose more than a trivial or “minimal” burden on the business.

Lawyers for the postal service say Mr Grof’s refusal to work on Sundays has placed a heavy burden on the small post office, put it in strain with trade union agreements and demoralized other workers. claimed.

A lower court ruled against Mr. Grof. Judge Patty Schwartzwriting to the split three-member panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Philadelphia, said “The waiver of Mr. Groff’s Sunday work actually cost the USPS more than minimal costs as it strained his colleagues, disrupted the workplace and work flow, and undermined employee morale.”

In the dissenting opinion, Judge Thomas M. Hardiman “The majority imposes a burden sufficient to inflict unfair hardship on employees, effectively imposing title VII religious considerations on the veto of heckling by disgruntled employees. There is.”

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