The U.S. Supreme Court Redefines the Definition of “Undue hardship” with Respect to Request for Religious Accommodations Under Title IV
August 9, 2023 • Jessica Villaescusa
Category: Legal Updates
The U.S Supreme Court issued an opinion in Groff v. DeJoy redefining an employer’s obligations for religious accommodations under Title VII. The Court strayed away from the almost five-decade standard previously used and redefined “undue hardship” stating that it requires employers, when denying a religious accommodation, to show that the burden of granting an accommodation would result in “substantial increased costs in relation to the conduct of its particular business.” The Court effectively disavowed the long-standing “de minimis” standard placing a higher burden on employers when determining whether a religious accommodation can be denied for an undue hardship. The Court held that courts must apply this new standard and take into account all relevant factors in the case at hand, including particular accommodation at issue, and the practical impact in light of the nature, size, and operating cost to the employer. The Court remanded the case back to the lower court to apply the new redefined standard.
Additionally, the Court held that any claims regarding the impact of an accommodation on an employee’s coworkers are only an undue hardship if the employer can also show that those impacts affect the conduct of the business. It specifically held that the fact that an accommodation may force other employees to work overtime was not, by itself, sufficient to show undue burden hardship.
With this new standard, employers should proceed with caution when evaluating and responding to religious accommodation requests. Stokes Wagner will continue to monitor any additional guidance issued by the courts.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact a local Stokes Wagner attorney.
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