Employment Law Report

Supreme Court to Consider Changing Standard for Analyzing Religious Accommodations in the Workplace

By: Sharon L. Gold

This month, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear Gerald E. Groff v. Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General, Case No. 21-1900, that asks the Court to reconsider the standard for Title VII religious accommodations cases.  Title VII prohibits religious discrimination and also requires that employers grant religious accommodations in the workplace unless those accommodations would cause an undue hardship. 

Pursuant to Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63 (1977), an employer can prove an undue hardship when the requested accommodation would require the employer to incur more than a de minimis cost or burden. In Groff, the lower court in Pennsylvania held that Groff’s request to not deliver packages on Sundays due to his Christian faith caused an undue hardship on the employer because it negatively impacted his co-workers and could potentially cause a violation of a collective bargaining agreement.  The 3rd Circuit agreed, holding that the accommodation negatively affected workflow, as well as employee morale. 

Groff asks the Court to consider the following questions:

1.      Whether this Court should disapprove the more than de minimis cost test for refusing Title VII religious accommodations stated in Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63 (1977).

2.      Whether an employer may demonstrate “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business” under Title VII merely by showing that the requested accommodation burdens the employee’s co-workers rather than the business itself.

Religious groups filing supportive briefs for Groff are calling for a more stringent standard for employers to prove undue hardship, such as the current standard for disability accommodations which requires employers prove a significant difficulty or expense.  This would be a major change in how religious accommodation cases are analyzed.  Employers are advised to monitor this case and update policies if there is a change in the standard.

Sharon L. Gold
Sharon Gold is a member of the Firm’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution Service Team. She concentrates her practice in the area of labor and employment and commercial litigation. Ms. Gold has experience defending employers in a variety of lawsuits, both at the administrative and civil complaint level, including defense of claims brought pursuant to the: FLSA, FMLA, Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, ERISA litigation, ADA, ADEA, Kentucky Civil Rights Act, Kentucky Wage and Hour Act,... Read More