A Unanimous Victory for Religious Freedom in the Workplace

July 5, 2023

RFI Senior Legal Fellow Jennie Bradley Lichter, who also serves as Deputy General Counsel at The Catholic University of America, authored a piece this week for RealClearReligion in response to the unanimous Supreme Court decision handed down last week that strengthened protections for religious employees in the United States. Lichter writes:

Amid some very high-profile decisions last week, the Supreme Court delivered an important win for religious freedom in the workplace. In Groff v. DeJoy, the Court eased the way for religiously observant employees to obtain accommodations from their employers that are necessary to allow them to live their beliefs. This unanimous decision written by Justice Alito swept aside what the Court characterized as a nearly 50-year-long misunderstanding about the requirements of Title VII and the holding of a 1977 decision called TWA v. Hardison, which lower courts have interpreted to allow employers to deny requests for religious accommodations that would result in any burden on the employer that is “more than … de minimis,” or minimal.

In Groff, the Court says that the reading of its prior holding has been wrong all along. Instead, an employer may deny an employee’s request for a religious accommodation only if “the burden of granting an accommodation would result in substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business” (emphasis added).

The question presented by this case may seem like the kind of esoteric legal query – complete with obscure Latin terminology – that only a lawyer could love. What does it matter, one might ask, whether Title VII requires that an employer must show a more than de minimis burden or must meet some other standard before denying an employee’s request for a religious accommodation? It turns out it matters a great deal, as the facts of Gerald Groff’s case demonstrate.

Read the full article: “A Unanimous Victory for Religious Freedom in the Workplace.”