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In a rare unanimous ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Christian postal worker who had asked the Court to determine if the United States Postal Service (USPS) could force him to deliver packages on Sunday. Christian postal service worker Gerald Groff argued that he observes Sunday as the Sabbath day, a day he is required to do no work. Groff worked as a fill-in mail carrier for USPS, covering shifts for other mail carriers that were off. The USPS’s contract with Amazon in 2013 expanded the work hours to include Sunday, which employees of the USPS were required to take. Groff transferred to another branch that did not do Sunday deliveries, but eventually, that branch began delivering on Sunday as well, and Groff was told he could only miss his assigned Sunday shifts if he could find someone to cover for him. He agreed to work all holidays that didn’t fall on Sunday and took an extra route on weekdays and Saturdays. Groff resigned from USPS in 2019 after he had missed over two dozen Sunday shifts, which he was unable to find anyone to cover for. In 2022, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Groff, stating the USPS would have experienced “undue hardship” in having to schedule his shifts so he didn’t have to work Sundays. 

The ruling overturned a previous 1977 precedent in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, where the Court ruled an “undue hardship” could apply if it was “more than a de minimis cost” to the business. Groff’s lawyer, Aaron Streett, requested that the Court get rid of the “de minimis” guideline, arguing it had been abused by employers to restrict religious accommodations of employees. He argued for the standard to be the same as the “undue burden” definition as other federal guidelines, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Court agreed with the argument. Writing for the Court, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “To be sure, as the Solicitor General notes, some lower courts have understood that the protection for religious adherents is greater than ‘more than … de minimus’ might suggest when read in isolation. But a bevy of diverse religious organizations has told this Court that the de minimus test has blessed the denial of even minor accommodation in many cases, making it harder for members of minority faiths to enter the job market. We hold that showing ‘more than a de minimus cost,’ as that phrase is used in common parlance, does not suffice to establish ‘undue hardship’ under Title VII. Hardison cannot be reduced to that one phrase.”

Writing an op-ed for Fox News, Groff wrote how the USPS had put him in a position of following his faith or seeking worldly comforts. “As much as I was willing to accommodate the Post Office, stepping in to help my co-workers when they needed it, the Postal Service would not accommodate me. If I had been willing to compromise what I believed and even worked just a handful of Sundays, I would have achieved enough seniority to have a full-time route and Sundays off. But that meant I either violate God’s command to honor the Lord’s Day by keeping it holy or honor Him and trust Him with the outcome.” Groff celebrated the Court’s decision, writing, “I am delighted that the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed our nation’s commitment to providing equal opportunity and fair treatment in the workplace. More than that, the justices affirmed my decision to trust God by honoring the Lord’s Day…But I am especially grateful to live in a nation that continues to honor the important role religion plays in everyday life.”

The decision is being hailed as a win for people of faith, allowing them to request more accommodations from employers for their faith requirements. It is just one of the wins handed to religious people at the end of this session, with the court siding 6-3 in favor of Lorie Smith, a Christian graphic designer who asked the Court to determine if she could be forced to make wedding websites for same-sex couples. Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch stated that ruling against Smith would go against the 1st Amendment and that it would allow the government “to force all manner of artists, speechwriters, and others whose services involve speech to speak what they do not believe on pain of penalty.” 

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