A unanimous Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that reasonable religious accommodations must be granted to employees who don’t want to work on Sundays – unless doing so would result in “substantial increased costs” to the business.
The case in question involved Gerald Groff, an evangelical Christian, who was told after being hired that he would be required to deliver Amazon packages on Sundays. Citing his practice of observing the Sabbath, Groff resisted. He wound up quitting and then sued.
In ruling in Mr. Groff’s favor, the High Court revisited and redefined the “undue hardship” language related to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a 1977 case, Trans World Airlines v. Hardison. In that decision, employers were told they didn’t need to offer accommodations if the accommodation would have a disrupting effect.
Suggesting previous interpretation of the provision was too vague, Thursday’s decision attempts to bring clarity to what defines a true burden on an employer.
“This is a landmark victory, not only for Gerald, but for every American. No American should be forced to choose between their faith and their job,” said Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO, and Chief Counsel for First Liberty. “The Court’s decision today restores religious freedom to every American in the workplace. This decision will positively help millions and millions of Americans – those who work now and their children and grandchildren.”
The Supreme Court’s decision is a win for religious freedom. Of course, the High Court is a legal and not a theological body, and therefore doesn’t concern itself with questions unrelated to the law. But at the heart of this dispute is a question that really begs to be asked:
Do we really and truly need the United States Post Office delivering packages on Sunday?
It’s become a given now that the business world is a 24/7 operation. With few exceptions, such as Chick-fil-A, most restaurants are open seven days a week. The sight of a postal truck on Sunday doesn’t shock us anymore – but it might be a better world with stronger families if it did.
Sabbath rest is a lost art, and everybody loses in the long run when the churn and burn of the world never slows down.
Alice Morse Earle, a 19th-century historian, once wrote:
”Sweet to the Pilgrims and to their descendants was the hush of their calm Saturday night and their still, tranquil Sabbath. ‘No work, no play, no idle strolling was known; no sign of human life or motion was seen except the necessary care of the patient cattle and other dumb beasts, the orderly and quiet going to and from the meeting, and at the nooning, a visit to the churchyard to stand by the side of the silent dead.”
Gerald Groff has won his rest – but maybe the bigger question is: Will we observe ours?
Photo from Shutterstock.