Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Religious Liberty in Groff v. DeJoy

NRB | July 6, 2023 | Advocacy

In a significant legal milestone for religious liberty, the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Groff v. DeJoy, a case litigated with the assistance of NRB member First Liberty Institute, delivered a resounding affirmation of the rights of employees to freely exercise their religious beliefs. The ruling sets a powerful precedent and reinforces the importance of protecting religious freedoms in the United States.

The case centered around Gerald Groff, a United States Postal Service (USPS) employee who sought to honor his commitment to keeping the Sabbath by not working on Sundays. When the USPS began delivering Amazon packages on Sundays, Groff, a Christian, was initially granted an exemption from working on Sundays. However, the USPS eventually withdrew his accommodation and Groff faced disciplinary action if he did not report to Sunday shifts. 

The Supreme Court of the United States, in a 9-0 ruling, threw out a lower court’s ruling that rejected Groff’s claim that the USPS’ actions to deny his Sabbath accommodations violated anti-discrimination law.

The plaintiff’s case was built around Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII states that employers are required to make allotments for workers’ religious practices and observances provided they do not place an “undue burden” on the employer. The high court ruled that the de minimis cost standard (which was used by the lower courts) is not the correct method for assessing undue burden. Instead, the employer must demonstrate that the cost related to granting a religious accommodation causes a substantial increase in cost.

The Groff v. DeJoy case carries immense implications for the preservation of religious liberties in the United States. By recognizing and affirming the sincerity of Groff’s religious beliefs, the Supreme Court underscored the importance of reasonable accommodations, bolstering the opportunity for recourse by employees whose employers demonstrate intolerance toward their religious beliefs.

Groff was a client of Baker Botts, an international law firm that was brought into the case by NRB member First Liberty Institute, who championed the ruling in a statement.

“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 Americansthose who work now and their children and grandchildren.”

By recognizing Groff’s sincere religious beliefs, the Court has set a powerful precedent for future cases involving religious accommodations. It reinforces the principle that individuals should not have to compromise their faith when fulfilling their professional duties, provided that reasonable alternatives exist.

The Court has also unanimously upheld the right of religious employers to insist their employees align with their institutional religious convictions. See Fulton v. City of Philadelphia and Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC.

In an increasingly anti-Christian culture, this ruling is not only an immense victory for religious liberty but also a serious reminder of the necessity to keep defending the free exercise of religion in America. NRB exists to help champion these First Amendment freedoms and maintain access for Christian communicators.

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