SCOTUS Takes on Religious Accommodation Test

The US Supreme Court has a blockbuster case before them that could change the standard for employers to accommodate requests based on religion. On Tuesday, arguments in Groff v DeJoy were heard.  Oral argument is not a definitive indicator on these cases, but the make up of the court, support by faith groups and the range of state laws on religious accommodation open the door to a new test.

To review:

  • Since 1977, U.S. Supreme Court precedent has been that employers need only show a “more than a de minimis cost” to deny an accommodation based on an employee’s sincerely held religious belief or practice at work.
  • That standard was applied in this case, where a US Postal Service employee requested an exemption on Sunday work based on his religion. The lower court found the scheduling and employee morale issues in accommodating this request met the more than a deminimis cost to the USPS.
  • Groff appealed, asking that the Court throw out the current test and replace it with one that better protects the employee’s religious beliefs under Title VII.

What is the new proposed standard? The employer must show significant difficulty or expense in granting the request. That standard would be a major change in the religious accommodation landscape.

What else could happen?

  1. The Court could leave the current more than deminimis test in place and uphold the lower court.
  2. The Court could further define the application of the current standard and claim it was not applied correctly, providing expanded guidance on the deminimis test.
  3. The Court could throw out the 40 year precedent and establish a new test, “significant difficulty or expense” which some states have adopted.

What should I do now? Keep reading this blog! We will let you know when the decision comes in! Questions? We can help.