Gerald Groff was employed by the United States Postal Service in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania beginning in 2012. Groff believes he must “[r]emember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” and is committed to observing Sunday Sabbath.

When the post office began delivering packages on Sundays for Amazon, Groff asked to be exempted from working on Sundays. The postmaster granted his request, allowing him to work additional shifts on other days of the week instead. This arrangement worked to everyone’s satisfaction until Summer 2016.

At that time, USPS changed its position, withdrawing the accommodation and replacing it with an arrangement that regularly required Groff to work on Sundays in violation of his conscience. After being scheduled for multiple Sundays, Groff sued under federal civil rights law. A district court sided with USPS, upholding USPS’s decision to withdraw Groff’s religious accommodation.

First Liberty Steps in to Protect Religious Employee Rights

First Liberty and Aaron Streett of Baker Botts, Alan Reinach of the Church State Council, Randall Wenger of the Independence Law Center, and David Crossett of Cornerstone Law Firm appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

The attorneys argued that federal civil rights law required USPS to provide Groff with a reasonable accommodation to observe Sunday Sabbath, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on USPS. The attorneys noted that USPS had successfully accommodated Groff for several years and should have continued to accommodate him rather than force him to choose between his faith and his job.

“It is unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of religion,” said Hiram Sasser, Executive General Counsel at First Liberty. “USPS should have granted Gerald a reasonable accommodation to observe the Sunday Sabbath. Forcing him to choose between his faith and his job is illegal. We must protect the right of every American to engage in religious exercise without fear of getting fired from their jobs.”

On May 25, 2022, the Third Circuit concluded that USPS had, indeed, failed to provide Groff with a reasonable accommodation, but that USPS was not required to do so because the accommodation would have caused undue hardship. In issuing its decision, the Third Circuit applied TWA v. Hardison, a poorly reasoned precedent that has protected corporations at the expense of religious employees for more than four decades.

First Liberty Appeals Case to the U.S. Supreme Court

In August 2022, attorneys for Groff filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States, asking the Court to reverse the Third Circuit’s decision.

“No American should be forced to choose between their religion and their job,” said Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel at First Liberty. “We are asking the Court to overturn a poorly-reasoned case from the 1970s that tips the balance in favor of corporations and the government over the religious rights of employees.”

“Observing the Sabbath day is critical to many faiths—a day ordained by God.  No one should be forced to violate the Sabbath to hold a job,” added Randall Wenger of the Independence Law Center.

Aaron Streett of Baker Botts said, “We are simply asking the Supreme Court to apply the law as written and require employers to grant meaningful religious accommodations to people of faith.”

Alan Reinach of the Church State Council said of the appeal, “The Supreme Court needs to fix its misguided interpretation of the law that permits government and corporate employers alike to discriminate against those seeking religious accommodation for trivial reasons.”

 

News Release
For Immediate Release: 8.23.22
Contact: Peyton Luke, media@firstliberty.org
Direct: 972-941-4453

Former Postal Carrier Who Lost Job After USPS Refused Religious Accommodation Appeals to U.S. Supreme Court
Attorneys ask Justices to enforce federal law that protects the right of American workers to honor Sabbath in accordance with faith.

Washington, D.C.—Today, First Liberty Institute, Baker Botts LLP, the Church State Council, and the Independence Law Center filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of former mailman Gerald Groff.  The petition asks the Court to reverse a Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision finding that the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) is not required to provide religious accommodation allowing Groff to observe the Sunday Sabbath.

You can read the petition here.

“No American should be forced to choose between their religion and their job,” said Stephanie Taub, Senior Counsel at First Liberty. “We are asking the Court to overturn a poorly-reasoned case from the 1970s that tips the balance in favor of corporations and the government over the religious rights of employees.”

“Observing the Sabbath day is critical to many faiths—a day ordained by God.  No one should be forced to violate the Sabbath to hold a job,” added Randall Wenger of the Independence Law Center.

Aaron Streett of Baker Botts said, “We are simply asking the Supreme Court to apply the law as written and require employers to grant meaningful religious accommodations to people of faith.”

Alan Reinach of the Church State Council said of the appeal, “The Supreme Court needs to fix its misguided interpretation of the law that permits government and corporate employers alike to discriminate against those seeking religious accommodation for trivial reasons.”

Gerald Groff began his career with the USPS in 2012 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, as a mail carrier. When the post office started delivering packages on Sundays for Amazon, Groff asked for a religious accommodation to observe Sunday Sabbath. The postmaster initially granted his request, allowing him to work additional shifts on other days of the week instead, but later the USPS offered only proposals that would still require Groff to work on Sundays and thereby violate his conscience.  Forced to choose between his faith and his career, Groff resigned and sued the USPS.  The district court sided with the USPS, concluding that accommodating Groff would pose an undue hardship on USPS. The Third Circuit upheld that decision.

Attorneys for Groff, argue that, as a federal employee with USPS, Groff was protected by Title VII from discrimination based on his religious beliefs and practices.  They suggest the Supreme Court re-examine TWA v. Hardison, the key case that determined the lower courts’ decisions.

###

About First Liberty Institute

First Liberty Institute is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom for all Americans. 

To arrange an interview, contact Peyton Luke at media@firstliberty.org or by calling 972-941-4453.

 


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