Monday, April 05, 2021

Supreme Court Denies Review In Cases Seeking To Overturn Hardison's Interpretation Of Title VII

The U.S. Supreme Court today denied review in two Title VII religious discrimination cases. (Order List). In both, petitioners were asking the Supreme Court to overturn its 1977 decision in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison which, interpreting the statutory term "undue hardship", allows an employer to refuse to accommodate an employee's religious requirements if doing so would impose  anything more than a de minimis cost. In Dalberiste v. GLE Associates, Inc. (Docket No. 19-1461, certiorari denied 4/5/2021), a Seventh Day Adventist sought a religious accommodation for his Sabbath observance. (SCOTUSblog case page.)  In Small v. Memphis Gas, Light & Water, (Docket No. 19-1388, certiorari denied      4/5/2021), a Jehovah's Witness employee sought scheduling accommodations that would allow him to attend church services. (SCOTUSblog case page). 

Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justice Alito, dissented from the denial of certiorari in the Small case, saying that the statutory interpretation involved there is out of step with subsequently adopted federal civil rights laws in other areas. Their opinion contends in part:

... Title VII’s right to religious exercise has become the odd man out. Alone among comparable statutorily protected civil rights, an employer may dispense with it nearly at whim. As this case illustrates, even subpar employees may wind up receiving more favorable treatment than highly performing employees who seek only to attend church.

Reuters reports on the Court's actions.