by Layton Brown & Jorge Gomez • 5 min read
The victory in our Faithful Carrier case, Groff v. Dejoy, set a major precedent strengthening protections for religious Americans at work. Moving forward, employers cannot deny religious accommodations unless they can prove that accommodating their employees would “result in substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business.” This is a tremendous shift in the law in a way that favors religious employees.
Less than two months since the Groff decision, we’re already witnessing positive change. Here are several religious accommodation and employment cases currently being fought in courts throughout the country where Groff is having an impact.
Professor Forced out of Job by Religious Hostility
Dusti Howell was a tenured professor at Emporia University. Dusti took off work to observe religious holidays and never received backlash in the 20+ years he worked at the school. That is, until the school hired a new dean who created a hostile working environment because of Dusti’s religious beliefs, similar what happened to Gerald Groff when he worked at the post office and asked for Sundays off to observe the Lord’s Day. Dusti was put in an untenable position of choosing between his job and his faith. In 2021, he resigned from his position.
Dusti filed a lawsuit for religious discrimination, which was put on hold in anticipation of the Groff Supreme Court decision. Now, with the Groff ruling in hand, Dusti is in a better position to fight his case in court. Howells’ attorney stated the “shift in unlawful discrimination cases after Groff v. Dejoy is a huge win for Howell.”
Recruiter Fired for Her Sincerely Held Beliefs
Courtney Rogers is another employee fighting a similar battle. She worked as a recruiter at Compass Group USA and was fired because of her religious beliefs.
The company put in place a new “diversity, equity and inclusion” program in which white men were specifically not eligible to participate. Citing her Christian beliefs, Courtney requested not to work on this program and to take up other job duties instead.
Her attorneys explained that “she has a belief that all men and women are created equal in the eyes of God” and “has a moral objection to treating human beings differently based on their race or sex.” She requested a religious accommodation, but the company did not grant it. She was fired last November for “failure to perform job duties.”
Previously, businesses could deny accommodations for their religious employees simply by pointing to minor inconveniences or minimal burdens. That troubling legal standard is what just changed. The revised religious accommodation standard set by Groff could help Courtney as she continues fighting her case. “That standard will absolutely come into play,” according to one of her attorneys.
Christian Music Teacher Forced to Resign for Refusing to Address Pronouns
John M. Kluge was a music teacher at Brownsburg High School in Indiana. He lost his job after the school district mandated that teachers call students by their preferred gender pronouns and names.
John requested a religious accommodation because he has a sincere religious belief that students should be addressed by their names and pronouns assigned at birth. The school district granted his request, and Kluge successfully continued teaching under the religious accommodation for an entire school year. But in response to the grumblings of a few students and faculty, the school district revoked the religious accommodation and forced Kluge to resign, ending his teaching career.
John sued for religious discrimination and took his case to federal court. Both the district court and the appeals court ruled against him. Thanks to the Faithful Carrier victory, however, John has another opportunity to keep fighting his case. Just last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued an order sending the case back down to the district court for reconsideration in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Only the Beginning
These are just a few of many cases that show the far-reaching impact of Groff. It’s no secret that countless religions Americans are continually being forced to choose between their faith and their livelihood. As our attorneys explained recently, religious discrimination complaints have risen to almost 14,000 over the past year according to an EEOC report.
There is still a lot of work ahead. Now, we have to take this landmark win and make sure employers follow the Supreme Court’s direction and comply with federal law. Even still, there’s no denying that God is at work. The Groff victory already bringing about huge change—and this is only the beginning.
In the Public Interest Podcast: Religious Accommodations at Work
Listen to the latest episode of In the Public Interest, a podcast from the law firm Wilmer Hale. Attorney Matt Martens discusses how the Supreme Court victory in our Faithful Carrier case, Groff v. DeJoy, impacts religious accommodations at work. Martens is one of our volunteer attorneys who submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the American Hindu Coalition supporting Gerald Groff. Listen below: