By: Jessica Jackler
The United States Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision this summer regarding under which circumstances employers will continue to be legally obligated to accommodate employees based on their religious beliefs.
The pending case is Groff v. DeJoy, a lawsuit brought by an evangelical Christian postal worker who asked the United States Postal Service (USPS) not to work on Sundays. The USPS denied Groff’s request based on undue hardship. Groff has requested the high court to make it easier for employees to bring religious claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination including religion.
The current standard under Title VII under well-established case law for almost 50 years permits an employer to deny a religious accommodation request if it can show an undue hardship, which currently exists when an employer must “bear more than a de minimis cost.” Groff seeks to change the legal framework for what constitutes an undue burden to make it more difficult to establish. He wants the undue burden standard to require employers to grant religious accommodations unless doing so would impose “significant difficulty or expense.”
Practice Pointer: The court’s conservative majority in recent years has been sympathetic to religious discrimination claims. Should the court rule in Groff’s favor, it may cause confusion for employers to comply with accommodation requests which could directly lead to discrimination or harassment claims by other employees.
For example, there is a concern that such a decision could empower religious employees or their employers to harass or refuse to hire LGBTQ+ employees. We will monitor the court’s ruling and release an update after the decision.