The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations (Orthodox Union)– the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization– joined the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in filing a friend-of-the-court, or amicus brief, before the United States Supreme Court, urging the justices to hear a pivotal religious freedom case, Groff v. DeJoy.
The case involves an evangelical U.S. Postal Service worker who refused to deliver mail on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath, and was not provided accommodations for his religious practice. The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against the plaintiff in May.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to provide reasonable religious accommodations as long as doing so doesn’t cause “undue hardship,” but previous Supreme Court rulings have interpreted Title VII so narrowly as to be effectively meaningless.
In Trans World Airlines v. Hardison (1977), the Court defined “undue hardship” as a “more than de minimis cost,” meaning employers don’t have to accommodate a worker if it would cause more than a trivial burden to them. Since then, the Orthodox Union has advocated to overrule that weakened standard through either legislation or newer court cases.
In recent years, the Supreme Court declined to review two cases involving workers’ requests to observe the Sabbath, but at least three justices (Alito, Gorsuch and Thomas) have indicated the high court should reinstate more protection for religious employees on the job.
Via this brief urging the court to take this case, the Orthodox Union hopes to protect all religious groups from unfair religious discrimination.
Orthodox Union Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament stated:
“I grew up hearing stories about Jews having to find a new job every Sunday because no business would keep a Jewish worker who observed the Sabbath. It remains true today that too many employers exploit the Supreme Court’s 1977 ruling to refuse to accommodate an employee’s religious practice. Whether you’re Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, Americans shouldn’t have to choose between their career and their conscience. We urge the Supreme Court to take this case and restore a key protection for religious freedom in America.”
Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer stated:
“Many people spend more of their waking hours in the workplace than anywhere else. The U.S. Constitution protects the ‘free exercise’ of religion because our Founding Fathers knew how important these protections are for a free society. Congress intended to have that protection include religious accommodation on the job, but those protections have been eroded by the courts. The Orthodox Union is proud to join this brief and speak up for the right of all religious people to practice their faith freely and without repercussions in the workplace.”