The U.S. Supreme Court today affirmed that employers may consider the burdens imposed by a requested religious accommodation on coworkers in determining whether the accommodation would harm the employer’s business. The ruling established that to deny an accommodation request, an employer must show that the burden of granting it would result in substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business.
Karen Loewy, Senior Counsel and Director of Constitutional Law Practice at Lambda Legal, issued the following statement:
“It is gratifying that the Supreme Court today recognized that employers may consider the effect a requested accommodation has on others in the workplace in assessing whether the accommodation would substantially burden the conduct of its business. While antidiscrimination laws absolutely require accommodation of religion, some requested accommodations unfairly burden co-workers, impact workplace morale, and expose coworkers to dignitary harms in ways that impose costs and harm the business itself. We must remain vigilant as lower courts apply this standard, particularly where a requested accommodation would result in co-workers facing hostile, discriminatory statements or conduct at work.”
Lambda Legal and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in Groff v. DeJoy, a lawsuit filed by former United States Postal Service (USPS) employee Gerald Groff claiming that USPS discriminated against him when it failed to accommodate his request that he not work Sundays, even though that was part of his job requirements when 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 could 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.
Gregory Nevins, Senior Counsel and Employment Fairness Project Director at Lambda Legal, added the following statement:
“Title VII clearly requires that employees, whenever practical, should be exempt from general workplace rules when those rules conflict with their religious practice. However, that requirement cannot be read to extend to situations where granting an exemption causes hardship for the conduct of the employer’s business, and clearly that must include the impact on other workers. Today’s ruling will make the workplace more hospitable for workers whose religious practice and observance varies from the majority. At the same time, employers should be able to say no to employees who insist on berating, proselytizing, condemning, or misgendering their coworkers.”
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.
Read today’s ruling here: https://lambdalegal.org/legal_document/us_20230629_groff-v-dejoy-opinion-of-the-court/
Read the Lambda Legal and AU brief here: https://lambdalegal.org/legal_document/us_20230330_brief-of-amici-curiae/