Attorneys ask Justices to enforce federal law that protects the right of American workers to honor Sabbath in accordance with faith.
(Washington, D.C., August 23, 2022) Today, the Independence Law Center, First Liberty Institute, Baker Botts LLP, and the Church State Council filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of former mailman Gerald Groff. The petition asks the Court to reverse a Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision finding that the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) is not required to provide religious accommodation allowing Groff to observe the Sunday Sabbath.
“Observing the Sabbath day is critical to many persons’ religious practice. No one should be forced to violate the Sabbath to hold a job,” said Randall Wenger, Chief Counsel of the Independence Law Center.
“In a free society, government employers should respect their employees’ rights rather than forcing them to choose between their job and their religion,” said Jeremy Samek, Senior Counsel of the Independence Law Center.
“Just as the Supreme Court recognized in a case involving the right of a Muslim worker to wear a head scarf at a clothing store, a government employer like the Post Office should reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs,” added Wenger.
Gerald Groff began his career with the USPS in 2012 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, as a mail carrier. He was a strong employee who loved his job. When the post office started delivering packages on Sundays for Amazon, Groff asked for a religious accommodation to observe Sunday Sabbath. The postmaster initially granted his request, allowing him to work additional shifts on other days of the week instead, and USPS acknowledged this caused no undue hardship to the USPC. But later the USPS offered only proposals that would still require Groff to work on Sundays and thereby violate his conscience. Forced to choose between his faith and his career, Groff resigned and sued the USPS. The district court sided with the USPS, concluding that accommodating Groff would pose an undue hardship on USPS. The Third Circuit upheld that decision.
“We are asking the Court to overturn a poorly-reasoned case from the 1970s that tips the balance in favor of corporations and the government over the religious rights of employees,” said Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel at First Liberty.
Attorneys for Groff, argue that, as a federal employee with USPS, Groff was protected by Title VII from discrimination based on his religious beliefs and practices. They suggest the Supreme Court re-examine TWA v. Hardison, the key case that determined the lower courts’ decisions.
Independence Law Center is a non-profit civil rights law firm based in Pennsylvania specializing in First Amendment issues.