Today, the US Supreme Court unanimously imposed a higher standard to measure an employer’s burden in granting a religious accommodation under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Since 1977, the standard of undue hardship an employer had to show was the “de minimus test”: a minimal, “undue” burden, which was a low bar. The Court now ordered that Title VII requires an employer denying a religious accommodation to show that the burden of allowing it “would result in substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business.” (Bold added.)
Gerald Groff, a postal worker, objected to Sunday work under a contract with Amazon, based on his religion. His religious request was denied, based on the minimal undue burden of covering his position, morale, and scheduling. Groff was seeking a standard similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) disability accommodation, where “undue hardship” is defined as an “action requiring significant difficulty or expense” along with other determining factors. The Supreme Court did not adopt the higher ADA standard but created the substantial increased costs measure instead.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE WORKPLACE?
This is not an egg-headed lawyer case. It has real implications for your workplace. You might want to take a look at your handbook or any policies and procedures that involve religious accommodation requests. Also, if you are a workplace with mandatory vaccines, you should look at the way you analyze religious accommodation requests under this new, higher standard.
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