In what’s been called a landmark decision, the US Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a Christian postal worker who refused to work on Sundays because of his religious beliefs and was disciplined by his employer.
The 9-0 ruling threw out a lower court's decision rejecting a claim by Gerald Groff, a former mail carrier in Pennsylvania, that the Postal Service's actions refusing to exempt him from working on Sundays, violated federal anti-discrimination law.
The First Liberty Institute backing his case said the unanimous ruling is a "landmark decision", which "strengthens legal protections for employees seeking religious accommodations, such as schedule changes to observe holy days".
“It’s an amazing moment to be part of, getting rid of some bad stuff that was on the books and being part of what God did”, Gerald Groff said immediately after the ruling was announced.
“It’s an honour to have my name on it but it’s really about glorifying God and giving him the honour that He is due”, he said.
The Philadelphia-based 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals had found that Groff's absences placed too much of a hardship on his co-workers and employer. The Supreme Court ordered the 3rd Circuit to reconsider the matter.
Gerald Groff had been working as a fill-in mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country, covering days when other postal deliverers were off. But he lost his job when an Amazon.com contract with the Postal Service required carriers to start delivering packages on Sundays.
He said no.
Mr Groff resigned from the USPS in 2019 before being sacked. He then sued for religious discrimination, citing a federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to accommodate employees’ religious practices unless doing so would be an “undue hardship” for the business.
His victory in the Supreme Court is expected to have a major impact on the religious liberty rights of employees across the country.
The Supreme Court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, has a track record of expanding religious rights, often siding with Christian plaintiffs.
Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled that a public high school football coach should be allowed to pray on the field after games. In another case, the court is weighing the claims of a Christian graphic artist who wants to create wedding websites, but not for couples in same-sex relationships.