On The Front Lines
Supreme Court Case Pits Postal Worker’s Request to Get Sundays Off for Church Against Government Contract to Deliver Sunday Amazon Packages
Amicus brief: Groff v. DeJoy
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a case that pits the right of conscience against the threat of losing one’s livelihood, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case about the extent to which the government should have to reasonably accommodate religious employees’ requests for time off each week for religious worship. Specifically, Groff v. DeJoy addresses whether a postal employee should be forced to work on Sundays delivering Amazon packages in lieu of attending church worship services.
In an amicus brief filed in Groff, The Rutherford Institute joined with a legal coalition to challenge the United States Postal Service’s claim that such a religious accommodation in the workplace would cause an “undue hardship” on its operations.
“While the courts have held that employers should not have to suffer more than a minimal cost in order to accommodate requests for religious accommodation in the workplace, the religious rights of government employees should not be treated as negligible concerns,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People.
Gerald Groff started working for the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) in 2012 as a non‑career Rural Carrier Associate who provided coverage for absent career employees. The following year, USPS contracted with Amazon to deliver packages on Sundays. In keeping with his religious beliefs about worshiping on Sundays, Groff transferred to work at a smaller post office which did not deliver Amazon packages on Sundays. However, in March 2017, that post office eventually began Sunday deliveries for Amazon. Rather than employing an Assistant Rural Carrier to work only on Sundays to resolve scheduling difficulties caused by the low number of staff, Groff’s post office instead proposed that Groff accommodate the USPS by picking a different day of the week to worship and observe the Sabbath. However, Groff was firm in his religious beliefs about worshiping on Sundays. Because Groff would not work when scheduled on Sundays, he faced progressive discipline. Denied any accommodation for his religious objections to working on Sundays, Groff resigned in January 2019 and then sued USPS for religious discrimination. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers must provide a reasonable accommodation for a worker’s religious observance and practice unless doing so would create an “undue hardship” on the conduct of the employer’s business.
The Supreme Court held in 1977 that requiring an employer to bear anything more than a minimal cost in providing a religious accommodation constitutes an undue hardship. In 2020, Justices Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch called on the Court to reconsider the low standard which employers can easily meet in claiming an “undue hardship.” Weighing in before the Court in Groff v. DeJoy, the legal coalition made up of The Rutherford Institute, the Christian Legal Society, KARAMAH, the Association of Christian Schools International, and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance argue that employers should not be able to compel workers to violate their conscience in order to maintain their livelihood, nor should the government be allowed such a low standard for establishing claims of “undue hardship.” The brief explains that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act should be interpreted to prohibit the government from treating religious rights as a trifling concern to be easily discarded when it suits the government’s agenda.
Thomas C. Berg with the University of St. Thomas School of Law and Laura Nammo and Kimberlee Wood Colby with the Christian Legal Society advanced the arguments in the Groff v. DeJoy amicus brief.
The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, provides legal assistance at no charge to individuals whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated and educates the public on a wide spectrum of issues affecting their freedoms.
December 21, 2022 • U.S. Postal Worker Ordered to Miss Sunday Church Services in Order to Deliver Amazon Packages