SCOTUS to Hear Christian Postman's Discrimination Case Over Sunday Work

On January 13, the US Supreme Court agreed to consider a case of religious discrimination dismissed by a lower court.

In 2019, Gerald Groff, a Pennsylvania mail carrier, sued the postal service. Groff had been working for about a year when the postal service secured a contract with Amazon for Sunday package deliveries. Groff informed his superiors that as an evangelical Christian, he was forbidden from “secular work” in observance of the Sunday Sabbath. He requested that he be reassigned to a post office branch that was not under the contract. Soon enough, however, that branch also started Sunday deliveries.

In an effort to accommodate Groff, his new superiors told him that as long as he found someone who agreed to cover his Sunday shifts, there wouldn’t be a problem. Soon enough, his co-workers became resentful of the extra shifts, causing one to move to a different branch and another to quit outright.

At this time, the post office implemented a “no exceptions” rule pertaining to Sunday shifts, which Groff ignored. The branch started disciplinary measures after he did not show up for more than two dozen assignments. Knowing he was about to be fired, Groff resigned and contacted a lawyer.

Represented by a coalition of law firms, including The Independent Law Center, a conservative advocacy group whose mission statement includes the defense of the right to exercise religion freely, Groff sued the postal service. The court ruled that Groff was treated no different than other employees and that “Sunday service was necessary to the Post Office’s business.”

Groff’s lawyers appealed the decision stating that “No American should be forced to choose between their religion and their job.” The court again sided with the Postal Service, noting the 1977 case, TWA vs. Hardison, which ruled that employers do not have to offer religious accommodation if it created an “undue hardship” on the employer.

It is expected that Groff’s lawyers will try to get the Supreme Court to overrule the Hardison judgment in addition to siding with Groff.

The Christian right First Liberty Institute’s chief counsel, Kelley Shackelford, stated, “It is time for the Supreme Court to reconsider a decades-old case that favors corporations and the government over the religious rights of employees.” The Independent Law Center’s Randall Wenger added, “Observing the Sabbath day is critical to many faiths- a day ordained by God. No one should be forced to violate the Sabbath to hold a job.”

Arguments will begin in April and are expected to be settled by June.

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