Religious Privilege in the Workplace Should Not Harm Coworkers

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In a secular democracy, it makes sense that religious believers shouldn't be forced by the government to do things that conflict with their religious values. That said, I'm sure we can all think of exceptions. Public health is a good example of a scenario where we might expect some exceptions. A religious person shouldn't have the right to endanger your health because of their beliefs.

What about workplace scenarios? What if a religious employee who doesn't believe in working on Sundays takes a job that requires them to do so? Is it reasonable to expect they'll automatically be exempt from this expectation because of their religious beliefs?

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has filed an amicus brief in Groff v. DeJoy asking the court to limit employees religious privileges in situations where others may be harmed. Here's how the FFRF described the facts of Groff:

Gerald Groff was employed as a part-time rural carrier in Pennsylvania, hired to fill in for career mail carriers on their days off. As an evangelical Christian who believes that Sundays are “meant for worship and rest,” Groff asked to never be scheduled to work on Sundays. After Sunday deliveries became commonplace due to the Postal Service’s contracts with Amazon, the Postal Service initially accommodated Groff’s request. This became increasingly difficult at a small station with few employees, and his continued refusal to show up for his Sunday shifts contributed to one employee transferring, one quitting and one filing a union grievance. The Postal Service ultimately determined that continuing to accommodate Groff by reallocating his Sunday shifts was causing undue hardship.

This is a tricky one. It sounds like Groff wasn't aware that he might have to work on Sundays when he took the job. It wasn't that long ago that none of us received mail or deliveries on Sundays. The requirements of his job changed. While that's not ideal, it also isn't unusual. His refusal to work on Sundays affected others. That's not ideal either.

Lower courts agreed, ruling in favor of the Postal Service because they recognized that allowing Groff not to work on Sundays was not a reasonable accommodation. The FFRF is understandably concerned that the Supreme Court may disagree. It highlights the undue burden Groff's privilege has placed on his co-workers.

This sounds like an interesting case with wide-ranging implications for the separation of church and state. I'd hate to find myself in a situation where I had to take on extra work because a co-worker believed things that weren't true.

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