The scenario: A crew member refused to work on Sunday because his sincerely held religious beliefs prevented him from laboring on the Sabbath.
His employer offered to rearrange his work schedule so he could go to church on Sunday morning and still report for his Sunday afternoon shift, but the man rejected that proposal.
So the employer asked his coworkers to handle the man’s Sunday shifts, which created a burden on all his colleagues. Because his refusal to work Sundays made it harder for everyone else to take Sundays off, there was tension in the workplace.
Meanwhile, the staffer was issued attendance points for each Sunday of work he missed. After he’d built up enough attendance points to be fired, he resigned instead.
Legal challenge: The worker sued for religious discrimination, arguing that he was forced to quit because his former employer neglected to accommodate his sincerely held religious beliefs.
The employer contended that accommodating him created an “undue hardship” on his coworkers.
The ruling: The employer lost. The U.S. Supreme Court overruled a lower appeals court and said the employee’s religious-bias lawsuit could proceed. In order to prove undue hardship, the organization had to show that it would’ve cost a lot in order to accommodate the man. It wasn’t an undue hardship just because coworkers might have been inconvenienced.
The skinny: This significant ruling from the nation’s top court means that in order to deny a religious accommodation, you have to prove that the accommodation would cost a lot. You can no longer turn down an accommodation request just because coworkers might be inconvenienced.
Cite: Groff v. DeJoy, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 22-174, 6/29/23.
(From the July 14, 2023, issue of HR Manager’s Legal Alert for Supervisors. To start your no-obligation trial subscription to the publication right now, please click here.)