The Supreme Court on Thursday clarified the standard for what constitutes an “undue hardship” when it comes to religious accommodations in the workplace. The court rejected the de minimis standard, which means that any effort or cost that is more than trivial is an undue hardship. Instead, the court said that 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.
The case involved Gerald Groff, a Christian who was fired from his job as a postal worker after he refused to work on Sundays. Groff argued that his employer should have accommodated his religious beliefs by allowing him to work different days. The lower courts had ruled against Groff, but the Supreme Court reversed those rulings, sending the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.
“The decision is also likely to have a significant impact on employers across the country…”
The Court’s decision is touted as a victory for religious freedom advocates, who argue that employers should be required to make reasonable accommodations for their employees’ religious beliefs. The decision is also likely to have a significant impact on employers across the country, who will now have to consider in a more expansive way the potential costs of accommodating religious employees when making scheduling decisions.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that the Court’s decision could have implications for other types of workplace accommodations, such as those related to disability or pregnancy.
We continue to serve clients in setting best practices to navigate issues related to employee accommodations while being mindful of necessary business operations.