Gerald Groff, a 45-year-old missionary who served in Africa and Asia, has won a Supreme Court case against the US Postal Service (USPS) over his decision to not work on Sundays. A former USPS employee who resigned in 2019 because he would not work on Sundays, Groff sued the postal agency for religious discrimination, and the matter escalated to the Supreme Court.
As it happened, following years of missionary work abroad, Groff wanted a job that would allow him to keep the Sabbath and he found a place at the USPS – because the postal service did not deliver mail on Sundays. But in 2013, the USPS signed a contract with Amazon to deliver packages on Saturdays and Sundays and Groff was caught in a fix.
When the postman explained his religious convictions to his supervisors, they initially allowed him to take Sundays off for church and family so long he covered other shifts; other employees were then assigned to his Sunday shift. But when many employees contended that their shifts did not fall on Sundays and that they couldn’t work the shifts that fell to Groff, management was forced to ask Groff to do his Sunday shifts.
But when he had missed 24 Sunday shifts by 2018, disciplinary measures began to pile up and in 2019, he resigned. Then he filed a lawsuit against the USPS. The US District Court and the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia ruled against the plaintiff and the matter went to the Supreme Court. Solicitor-General Elizabeth Prelogar represented the USPS.
In a unanimous decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court supported Groff, with all the justices agreeing that employers must grant religious accommodations to employees who request such accommodations unless the request would result in a substantially increased cost to the business. The Court ruled that businesses must demonstrate that granting a worker a Sunday off would cause significant loss or increased costs before the request can be rejected.
In his opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that “We think it is enough to say that an employer must show that the burden of granting an accommodation would result in substantially increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business.”
Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute, which represented Groff, stated that “This is a landmark victory, not only for Gerald but for every American. No American should be forced to choose between their faith and their job.” Rachel Laser, president of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, also praised the decision, saying that “We’re facing an aggressive movement working to weaponize religious freedom.”
Expressing gratitude for the outcome of the Groff vs DeJoy case, Groff said that “I hope this decision allows others to be able to maintain their convictions without living in fear of losing their jobs because of what they believe. I lived under a cloud of thinking any day I could report to work…and then be told that I was terminated. Two years of just pretty much every day was tough.”