Supreme Court solidifies protections for workers who ask for religious accommodations
Jun 29, 2023, 8:01 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Thursday used the case of a Christian mailman who didn’t want to work Sundays to solidify protections for workers who ask for religious accommodations.
In a unanimous decision the justices made clear that workers who ask for accommodations, such as taking the Sabbath off, should get them unless their employers show doing so would result in “substantial increased costs” to the business.
The court made clear that businesses must cite more than minor costs — so-called “de minimis” costs — to reject requests for religious accommodations at work. Unlike most cases before the court, both sides in the case had agreed businesses needed to show more.
The case before the court involved a mail carrier in rural Pennsylvania. The man was told that as part of his job he’d need to start delivering Amazon packages on Sundays. He declined, saying his Sundays are for church and family. U.S. Postal Service officials initially tried to get substitutes for the man’s shifts, but they couldn’t always accommodate him. When he didn’t show, that meant more work for others. Ultimately, the man quit and sued for religious discrimination.
The case is the latest religious confrontation the high court has been asked to referee. In recent years, the court’s 6-3 conservative majority has been particularly sensitive to the concerns of religious plaintiffs. Last year, the court split along ideological lines in ruling for public high school football coach who wanted to pray on the field after games.
Other recent religious cases have drawn wide agreement among the justices, such as upholding a Boston had violated the free speech rights of a conservative activist when it refused his request to fly a Christian flag on a City Hall flagpole.