Supreme Court Ruling Sets Precedent for Religion at Work

Gerald Groff, an evangelical Christian postal worker, specifically took a job at the US postal service because he wouldn’t have to work on Sundays. Enter Amazon, which signed a contract with the USPS to deliver on Sunday. While this was a financial benefit for the USPS, it meant that Groff’s bosses wanted him to work on Sunday.

He sued, saying his religion prohibited it.

On June 29, 2023, the US Supreme Court handed down a very unusual unanimous decision saying that the standard for religious accommodations was too narrow and needed to be expanded. While the statute requires companies to provide an accommodation as long as it wasn’t an “undue burden,” what that means was in question.

Previously, courts interpreted “undue burden” as meaning nothing more than a “de minimus” impact. In other words, something very small. In Groff’s case, the USPS said they tried to find a solution with a small impact but couldn’t. The associated press described it as follows:

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One thought on “Supreme Court Ruling Sets Precedent for Religion at Work

  1. I heard about this case before; in a way, it reminds me of how grandfather clause agreements can affect both the worker who has that agreement and the workplace in the long term. When this person was hired and placed at this specific post office as a regular (only regular employees in the USPS system can request a permanent schedule, which is part of the postal workers union contract). As applied to this case, the worker, unless told directly by the union, is entitled to work only the schedule requested (which is any hours with no Sundays scheduled, in other words, the worker has clearly stated that his work availability does not include Sunday from the hire and placement start date). I have worked at companies that didn’t have Sundays as part of the open-for-business operation but over the years evolved into incorporating Sundays as part of the current business model.
    But what changes the business does to operating hours, it also has to uphold its employment agreements with its current employees and further hired employees. Because this specific Post Office appears to have a scheduling problem with having enough employees to work Sundays, it seems to be an internal scheduling problem with multiple employees wanting the same day off and all refusing to work Sundays despite the changeover USPS to add Sunday deliveries out of that Post Office. It doesn’t appear that this specific Post Office is a main post office but mostly a unit that delivers mail to the area. ( I have 3 post offices in my locations only one of which is the main Post Office and all Sunday deliveries come out of that post office). As I have researched who works Sundays and who doesn’t have to work Sundays in the USPS system ( I have relatives who retired from the USPS), the hire date as a regular determined who was required and who was exempt. So to settle this problem, the union contract would have to play into the decision as to who can’t be scheduled and who is entitled to have permanent Sundays off. This is not a simple religious discrimination assumption but is based on the union contracts in place when hired date. Any changes in employment caused by workplace changes had to be covered in the union contracts.

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