The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected the claims of a worker who protested being assigned duties on Sundays that forced him to violate his faith, but a dissent in the 2-1 decision pointed out there was no evidence the employer couldn’t accommodate the worker’s beliefs.
A report in Courthouse News explained the ruling from the appeals court said the U.S. Postal Service did not have to accommodate Christian Gerald Gross, who wanted to be exempted from Sunday work on the basis of his faith.
He had worked for the USPS as a carrier, then abruptly was assigned to the Sunday rotation when the Postal Service tried to cash in on a deal to deliver Amazon packages on Sundays.
Judge Thomas Hardiman dissented. While agreeing the conflict had to be totally eliminated to result in reasonable accommodation under Title VII, he was skeptical of how much of a burden the USPS faced.
“Inconvenience to Groff’s coworkers alone doesn’t constitute undue hardship,” Hardiman wrote in his dissent. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stayed Gerald Groff from the completion of his appointed rounds. But his sincerely held religious belief precluded him from working on Sundays. Because USPS has not yet shown that it could not accommodate Groff’s Sabbatarian religious practice without its business suffering undue hardship, I respectfully dissent.”
Courthouse News said the issue has split circuit courts across the country, and that’s one factor that the U.S. Supreme Court considers when it decides which cases to review.
Groff’s lawyer, Christopher Tutunjian, said a decision would be made whether to further pursue the case.
“We are pleased with the Third Circuit’s unanimous holding that a ‘reasonable accommodation’ under Title VII must completely eliminate the work-religion conflict. This holding correctly addresses a circuit-splitting issue and will protect the religious rights of employees throughout the Circuit,” the lawyer wrote.
“However, as Judge Hardiman persuasively explained in his partial dissent, the majority’s erroneous conclusion that USPS established undue hardship only underscores the need for the Supreme Court to address the continued vitality of the Court’s decision in TWA v. Hardison.”
Gross had been a rural carrier associate but then was suddenly assigned to a Sunday rotation to deliver Amazon packages for USPS>
The postal service ordered him to be in the rotation, and disciplined Groff when he missed shifts on that day.
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