On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court dodged a chance to further expand religious rights, dismissing two cases in which employees accused companies of violating federal anti-discrimination law by not responding sufficiently to time off requests for respect their religious obligations.
Judges refused to hear appeals from two men of different Christian denominations – a Jehovah’s Witness from Tennessee and a Seventh-day Adventist from Florida – of lower court decisions dismissing their claims of illegal religious bias. The lower courts concluded that the accommodations sought by the men would have caused too much hardship for employers.
In a dissent, Conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito said the court should have taken the Tennessee case. The Supreme Court has taken a broad view of religious freedoms in a number of important cases in recent years.
The issue in those cases was the compensation that companies must provide to employees for religious reasons to comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of religion as well. than on race, color, sex and national origin.
Gorsuch wrote that religious rights under the Labor Act are “a strange man” because they do not receive as much protection as other rights guaranteed by federal law, such as those that apply to individuals. with disabilities.
“Only among the comparable civil rights protected by law an employer can dispense with them almost at will,” Gorsuch wrote.
By law, employers must reasonably accommodate workers’ religious observance or practices, unless it causes the company “undue hardship” – which the Supreme Court in a 1977 case ruled to be otherwise. thing only a minor or “de minimis” burden. Critics of the “de minimis” standard have argued that it is particularly harmful to religious minorities.
Last year, in a similar appeal the court refused to hear that involved a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, three conservative judges – Alito, Gorsuch and Judge Clarence Thomas – said the court should consider rescinding the 1977 precedent.
The Tennessee case involved Jason Small, a leader of the Memphis suburban congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Collierville, who worked as a dispatcher at Memphis Light, Gas and Water, a large public service. Small job missed in 2015 to attend worship during the Good Friday holidays as well as for a congregational duty the following Wednesday, even if his requests for leave were refused.
Small was suspended for two days without pay. The company said Small had missed his job “several times”.
The Florida case involved Mitche Dalberiste, a Seventh-day Adventist. GLE Associates, a Florida company that monitors workplace safety, revoked his job offer after revealing he would be unable to work on the Sabbath, which he observed from bedtime from sun Friday to sunset Saturday.
GLE, in a court file, said Dalberiste lied about his ability to work weekends and said he regretted being drawn into a “special interest-fueled trial aimed at bypassing Congress.” Dalberiste is in part represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a religious rights legal group.
The two men filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging religious discrimination in violation of Title VII.
In Small’s case, the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio, ruled that his accommodation would cause more than “de minimis” hardship to company operations and other employees. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta, Ga., Issued a similar ruling against Dalberiste.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York and Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham)
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