The push is on to get the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit a 45-year old decision that limited the extent to which employers must respect their employees’ religious practices to a de minimis accommodation.
While federal civil rights law requires that religious employees are entitled to the “reasonable accommodation of their religious practices” unless “an undue hardship” will result for the employer, in a 1977 case the Supreme Court defined “undue hardship” as anything more than de minimis.
A Christian Sunday Sabbath observer is petitioning the Supreme Court to consider his claim that the U.S. Postal Service discriminated against him by refusing to exempt him from working on Sundays. Attempted accommodations had caused a “tense atmosphere” and resentment among other employees, all of which constituted an “undue hardship,” they argued.
The National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) filed an amicus curiae brief in support of this individual, which was joined by major national Orthodox Jewish organizations: Agudath Israel of America, Agudath Harabbanim of the United States and Canada, Coalition for Jewish Values, National Council of Young Israel, Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, Rabbinical Alliance of America, Rabbinical Council of America, and Torah Umesorah (The National Society for Hebrew Day Schools).
The brief, written by noted Supreme Court litigator Nathan Lewin, argues that while the Civil Rights Act was “designed to grant fair opportunities for devout adherents to religious principle,“ the de minimus definition did not cover the reality of the Sabbath Observer problem and prevented the realization of the promise of that ground-breaking law.