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Legal options for religious discrimination in the workplace

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2023 | Workplace Discrimination |

While those practicing Christianity might make up a sizable percentage of America’s workforce, it is unrealistic to assume that every business will keep Sundays work-free to honor that religion’s holy day of rest. And, other religions have their own days or times in which work is not performed so that their devotees can also do religious observances. One recent legal case heading to the country’s highest court could set a precedent for how employers should treat work on the seventh day.

A former US Postal Service letter carrier is appealing to the Supreme Court over the federal agency’s insistence that he work on Sundays. According to him, his boss in 2019 gave him the difficult decision to pick between keeping his seven-days-a-week job and practicing his faith. Unwilling to sacrifice his beliefs, the man resigned and later sued USPS for religious discrimination.

Two lower courts had sided with USPS, agreeing that the man’s refusal to work on Sundays was an undue burden on the employer, because it required other employees to work on Sundays in this man’s place.  But an appeal has brought the case to the Supreme Court, where the former postal employee hopes to require employers to provide broader accommodations of workers’ religious beliefs and observances. Others are concerned about the effect on co-workers who will have to work on the days or times that the religious employees cannot work. The Supreme Court will have to decide whether to keep the “undue burden” test, or come up with another approach for resolving workplace scheduling disputes that originate with an employee’s demands not to work during a religious observance period.

Here, USPS previously did not deliver mail on Sundays. But the agency changed its policy after online retail giant Amazon contracted it to deliver packages, including on Sundays, in 2015.

Federal laws on religious accommodations

Are employers required to accommodate the religious practices of their workers, such as the Sabbath or religious holidays? Ordinarily yes, unless it would be an undue burden on the employer and co-workers.  The rules also don’t make distinctions between traditional religions and newer, smaller faiths.

No matter your religious views, you should know that workplace discrimination against your beliefs is seldom right. If you feel that your employer is not respecting your religion’s rituals or practices, reach out to your company’s human resources and raise your concerns before seeking legal advice.

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