In 1977, the United States Supreme Court decided Trans World Airlines v. Hardison to interpret Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 regarding an employer’s obligation to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs. That decision balanced the obligation to accommodate the belief against an undue hardship imposed on the employer.
The Supreme Court is now looking to clarify what undue hardship is with a case concerning a former Postal Service employee alleging that the Postal Service did not sufficiently accommodate him and then resigning before being fired for not cooperating with the Postal Service. The former employee was a Christian who observed the Sunday Sabbath. He informed the Postal Service that, due to his religious faith, he would be restricted from working on Sundays.
The Postal Service did not view this request as problematic until it agreed with Amazon that it would deliver Amazon’s packages on Sundays. After that, on more than 20 occasions, the small rural post office where the employee worked was unable to staff the employee’s shifts and he failed to appear for Sunday work on request. After multiple disciplinary actions, the employee quit instead of being fired and filed a lawsuit against Postal Service for refusing to accommodate his religious beliefs under Title VII.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against him in his proposed accommodation caused undue hardship on the Postal Service because it disrupted workflow and lowered employee morale as other employees had to cover his absences. Despite the outcome of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals decision against the employee, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the employee’s case to clarify religious accommodation jurisprudence.
The case will likely be argued this coming April.