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Highest court decision enhances employee religious accommodations

On Behalf of | Jul 17, 2023 | Employment Law

In Sherwood and across Oregon, people have many different religions with specific requirements they are expected to adhere to. That can sometimes conflict with work with which days they are available, the time at which they must stop, what facilities are available and more.

While employers are legally required to grant religious accommodations, the extent of employee rights can be confusing. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that addresses this issue directly.

What does the decision mean for religious accommodations at work?

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision stems from a case in which an employee for the U.S. Postal Service asserted that his evangelical Christian beliefs were violated by the USPS’s requirement that he work on Sundays. He did not work as instructed and was disciplined.

In the case, a lower court had rejected his claim. The Supreme Court decided unanimously in his favor saying that requiring him to work on Sundays when his religion does not allow it was a violation of federal law. The employee was a fill-in mail carrier when regular carriers were off the job. It is a rural area. Despite attempts to swap days to suit the man’s religious beliefs, it did not always succeed. He resigned from his job.

The previous ruling made by the lower court asserted that the employer was subjected to undue hardship. Undue hardship is generally categorized as causing excessive cost or difficulty on the employer. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the man based on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which is meant to prevent employment discrimination for multiple reasons, including religion.

Religious employees who believe their rights are violated have options

Employees who feel they are being prevented from following their religious code because of employer demands should be fully aware of how the Supreme Court decision will affect them.

In many instances, it is a simply misunderstanding. In others, employers will continue to try and subtly or overtly dissuade an employee from asking for and using religious accommodations they are entitled to. For employees who believe they have been denied their rights and federal or state employment law was violated, it is important to have advice on what steps can be taken.