Supreme Court Strengthens Employer Obligations for Religious Accommodations

A recent Supreme Court ruling toughens the rules for private and public employers to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs.

The case, Groff v. DeJoy, featured the grievances of a former postal worker who sued after his request for Sundays off was denied. The unanimous June 29 ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) found that:

Title VII requires an employer that denies a religious accommodation to show that the burden of granting an accommodation would result in substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business.

The opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, made it clear that

… employers cannot avoid meeting religious requests simply by arguing that it would cost them more than a de minimis ‒ or trivial ‒ amount. Employers instead should accommodate religious employees’ requests unless doing so would result in “substantial increased costs” to the business, according to an opinion from Justice Samuel Alito.

The Cato Institute interpreted the ruling as the following:

The result of today’s Supreme Court opinion in Groff v. DeJoy is to load private, not just public, employers with new practical burdens in the name of accommodating employees’ religious beliefs. The Court does so by nimbly reinterpreting, as opposed to overturning, the longstanding standard set forth in TWA v. Hardison (1977), which interpreted Title VII as requiring accommodation of this sort by employers only when the costs were “de minimis.” Whatever the standard appropriate for government workplaces, there are high stakes in imposing a standard on private workplaces. Today’s decision leaves private employment relations in America less free.

Several previous rulings from the highest court about employer obligations to grant religious accommodations allowed employers to “reject requests often.” Additionally, USA Today notes that the SCOTUS ruling “has the potential to give religious employees more say over their schedules and dress codes.”

Read the Supreme Court opinion in Groff v. DeJoy

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