Supreme Court hears major case on religious rights of workers

 April 18, 2023

The Supreme Court heard a major case on the religious rights of workers Tuesday. The court's conservatives were sympathetic to Gerald Groff, a Christian postal worker in rural Pennsylvania who was forced to deliver packages on the Sabbath.

When Groff started at the United States Postal Service (USPS), he did not have to work Sundays. That changed when USPS contracted with woke megacorporation Amazon to deliver packages seven days a week.

USPS was ultimately unable or unwilling to accommodate Groff, who resigned and sued for religious discrimination.

Supreme Court weighs religious freedom

The case turns on what constitutes an "undue hardship" for an employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which requires employers to make "reasonable accommodations" of a worker's religious beliefs.

Groff's lawyer, Arthur Streett, argued that a 1977 Supreme Court precedent interpreting "undue hardship" as "more than a de minimis cost" set the bar so low for employers that workers have effectively no protection for their religious beliefs.

The conservative justices were generally receptive to that argument, with Neil Gorsuch saying the "de minimis" standard is nonsensical because laws are not meant to be "trifling."

"Congress doesn't pass civil rights legislation to have de minimis effect, we don't think of the civil rights laws as trifling, which is the definition of de minimis. The law says since time immemorial that the law does not concern itself with trifles," he said.

"Undue hardship"

A key question that came up Tuesday was whether "undue hardship" arises when co-workers shoulder the burdens of an accommodation.

Elena Kagan raised a hypothetical situation where the preferences of workers at a small grocery store could be impacted by a co-worker's Sabbath observance.

"Maybe they want to go to church too, but they're not a Sabbath observer," she said. "All of these people want to take Sundays off."

Biden vs. Christian worker

The hostility of the court's liberal wing was not surprising, but there was also pushback from conservatives like Amy Coney Barrett, who pressed Streett to define when poor worker morale rises to an "undue hardship" on a company. Brett Kavanaugh questioned whether Groff was requesting special treatment.

Streett said burdens on other employees should be considered, but they do not automatically rise to an "undue hardship" on a business. He repeatedly emphasized a distinction between the mere preference not to work on a Sunday and a religious obligation to rest.

"The evidence in the record is that individuals had to work on Sundays when they would prefer not to work. But that's just the nature of an accommodation," he said.

President Biden, a self-described "devout Catholic" and supposed friend of the working man, is supporting the USPS against Groff. One imagines Biden would handle things differently if Groff was demanding affirmation of his preferred gender pronouns.

Gross previously lost in federal district court and the 3rd Circuit Appeals Court, where a dissenting judge warned against granting "disgruntled employees" a "heckler's veto" over religious rights. The Supreme Court's ruling is expected in June.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
© 2015 - 2024 Conservative Institute. All Rights Reserved.