Supreme Court Changes Standard for Religious Accommodation

July 21, 2023

By: Colin A. Walker

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the primary federal employment discrimination law in the United States, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for religious practices. For example, in 2015, the Supreme Court held that Abercrombie & Fitch was required to allow a Muslim employee to wear a headscarf while working.

However, the employer does not have to accommodate a religious practice if it imposes an undue hardship. Previously, undue hardship was defined as anything that imposed more than a de minimis cost on the employer. On June 29, 2023, the Court adopted a more difficult standard.

In Groff v. DeJoy, a Christian employee challenged the U.S. Postal Service’s decision to require him to work on a Sunday, which was against his religious beliefs. Ruling in favor of the employee, the Court rejected the de minimis standard, holding that to establish undue hardship the employer must show that the accommodation “would result in substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business.” This is less demanding than the standard for undue hardships for disability accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but more demanding than the de minimis standard.

In light of this decision, employers must revise their policies and procedures to comply with the new standard for religious accommodations.