Lambda Legal and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) today filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that employers must be free to consider the burdens imposed by a requested religious accommodation on coworkers and customers, including the dignitary harms of discrimination, in determining whether the accommodation would harm the employer’s business.
“While antidiscrimination laws absolutely require the accommodation of religion in the workplace, that accommodation has limits,” said Karen Loewy, Senior Counsel and Director of Constitutional Law Practice at Lambda Legal. “And clearly, those limits must allow an employer to decline a requested religious accommodation if doing so would burden or harm other employees and foment discontent or disruption in the workplace.”
Lambda Legal and AU submitted the amicus brief in Groff v. DeJoy, a lawsuit filed by former United States Postal Service (USPS) employee Gerald Groff against the USPS claiming that the USPS discriminated against Groff when it failed to accommodate his request that he not work Sundays, even though that was part of his job requirements when the USPS contracted with Amazon to deliver packages.
Groff’s postmaster worked to find other employees who would swap with Groff to cover his Sunday shifts, but on more than 20 occasions no employee would swap, and Groff refused to work, forcing the postmaster to scramble to get Groff’s packages delivered and causing dissension in the workforce. After several rounds of discipline, Groff resigned. He then sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
“Title VII clearly requires that employees, whenever possible, should be exempt from general workplace rules when those rules conflict with their religious practice,” said Gregory Nevins, Senior Counsel and Employment Fairness Project Director at Lambda Legal. “However, that exemption cannot be read to extend to situations where granting it causes hardship for the conduct of the employer’s business, and clearly that hardship must include the impact on other workers.”
The case is Groff v. DeJoy. The brief was authored by attorneys Joshua A. Matz, Carmen Iguina Gonzalez, James Santel, Selena Kitchens and Disha Verma of the law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP; Lambda Legal attorneys Karen L. Loewy, Senior Counsel and Director of Constitutional Law Practice, and Gregory R. Nevins, Senior Counsel and Employment Fairness Project Director; and AU attorneys Bradley Girard, litigation counsel, and Alex J. Luchenitser, associate vice president and associate legal director. Oral argument before the Supreme Court is scheduled for April 18, 2023.
Read the Lambda Legal and AU brief here: https://lambdalegal.org/legal_document/us_20230330_brief-of-amici-curiae/