CV NEWS FEED // The CatholicVote.org Education Fund (CVEF) on Monday filed an amicus brief in support of Gerald Groff, a former United States Postal Service (USPS) employee who sued the agency for failing to accommodate his request to have Sundays off so he could honor the Sabbath.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, known as Groff v. DeJoy, after the Third U.S. District Circuit Court ruled against Groff last year. Groff’s legal team had argued that employers must honor religious accommodation requests like Groff’s under the rights outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The lower court’s decision rejected that position and agreed with the argument of USPS’ attorneys that Groff’s request for Sundays off represented an “undue hardship” for his employer.
As the Catholic News Agency reported:
In its decision, the Third Circuit Court applied the precedent set in TWA v. Harrison, a 1977 Supreme Court case that posited employers were not obligated to accommodate workers’ religious requests if they posed more than a “de minimis,” or trivial cost.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act clearly has the “goal of providing religious employees with equal access to the dignity of work,” states CVEF’s amicus brief. The filing also calls on the Supreme Court to “jettison the senseless ‘undue hardship’ standard drawn from dicta in Harrison,” which “defies” Title VII “by limiting an employer to ‘de minimis’ accommodation costs.”
Citing the Supreme Court’s own previous analysis in an earlier religious freedom case, EEOC V. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., the brief argued that USPS’s failure to accommodate Groff fell short of the Court’s understanding of religious freedom as protected under Title VII.
In the Abercrombie case, the clothing retail company argued that it did not need to accommodate a Muslim employee who wore a headscarf at work, in keeping with her religious obligations. While Abercrombie & Fitch argued that the accommodation caused undue hardship for the company because the appearance of the scarf was too “formal” for their brand, the Supreme Court firmly rejected their argument.
“In EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., this Court explained that Title VII grants ‘religious practices’ in the workplace ‘favored treatment’ when considering accommodations, allowing workers to practice their religion ‘despite the employer’s normal rules to the contrary,’” the brief points out. “This affirming view of accommodations—supported by the statute’s text—imbues employees of all faiths with the dignity of work, a concept woven into the fabric of Title VII.”
“Title VII does not demand mere neutrality with regard to religious practices—that they be treated no worse than other practices,” the Supreme Court’s previous ruling stated:
Rather, it gives them favored treatment, affirmatively obligating employers not “to fail or refuse to hire or discharge any individual … because of such individual’s” “religious observance and practice.”
CVEF’s brief argued:
It is critical to the proper resolution of the question presented by the Petitioner that this analysis in Abercrombie be honored. This Court’s recognition that Title VII gives favored treatment to religious practices is also a promise that laborers of all faiths will not be deprived of the dignity of work.
Readers can find the full Amicus Brief from the CVEF here.