June 29, 2023
Decided June 29, 2023
Groff v. DeJoy, No. 22-174
Today, the Supreme Court clarified the standard employers must satisfy to show that granting a religious accommodation would create an “undue hardship” on the employer’s business. The Court unanimously held that an employer must show “substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business” to justify the denial of a religious accommodation under Title VII.
Background: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of “religion” unless the employer can demonstrate that it cannot reasonably accommodate a current or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice “without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j). Relying on Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63 (1977), many lower courts interpreted “undue hardship” to mean any accommodation for which the employer must bear more than a “de minimis cost.”
Gerald Groff brought a Title VII claim against his employer, the U.S. Postal Service, after the Postal Service disciplined him for refusing to work on Sunday, when he observed the sabbath. The Postal Service contended that accommodating Groff’s religious observance disrupted workflow and created impositions on his coworkers, to the detriment of workplace morale. The district court granted summary judgment to the USPS, and the Third Circuit affirmed, concluding that accommodating Groff would impose more than de minimis costs on the Postal Service.
Issue: Whether Title VII’s “undue hardship” standard for assessing religious accommodations is satisfied by demonstrating only that the employer would incur costs that are “more than de minimis.”
No. To show that granting a religious accommodation would create an “undue hardship,” an employer must show that the burden of granting an accommodation would result in substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business.
“[A]n employer must show that the burden of granting an accommodation would result in substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business.”
Justice Alito, writing for the Court
What It Means:
The Court’s opinion is available here.
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