Groff v. Dejoy, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 14195 (3rd Cir. May 25, 2022) (Shwartz, C.J.) Plaintiff Gerald Groff is a Sunday Sabbath observer whose religious beliefs dictate that Sunday is meant for worship and rest. As a result, Groff informed his employer, the United States Postal Service (“USPS”), that he was unable to work on Sundays. USPS offered to find employees to swap shifts with him, but on more than twenty Sundays, no co-worker would swap, and Groff did not work. Groff was disciplined and ultimately left USPS. Groff sued USPS for violating Title VII by failing to reasonably accommodate his religion. Because the shift swaps USPS offered to Groff did not eliminate the conflict between his religious practice and his work obligations, USPS did not provide Groff a reasonable accommodation. The accommodation Groff sought (exemption from Sunday work), however, would cause an undue hardship on USPS. An employer is not required “to accommodate at all costs.” Ansonia, 479 U.S. at 70. Where an employer’s good-faith efforts to accommodate have been unsuccessful, the inquiry turns to whether the employer demonstrated that “such an accommodation would work an undue hardship upon the employer and its business.” GEO Grp., 616 F.3d at 271. “An ‘undue hardship’ is one that results in more than a de minimis cost to the employer.” Id. at 273. Both economic and noneconomic costs suffered by the employer can constitute an undue hardship. Id. The undue hardship analysis is case-specific, requiring a court to look to “both the fact as well as the magnitude of the alleged undue hardship,” though it is “not a difficult threshold to pass.” Id. (quoting Webb, 562 F.3d at 260). Groff’s proposed accommodation of being exempted from Sunday work would cause an undue hardship. Exempting Groff from working on Sundays caused more than a de minimis cost on USPS because it actually imposed on his coworkers, disrupted the workplace and workflow, and diminished employee morale at both the Holtwood Post Office and the Lancaster Annex hub. The Holtwood Post Office to which Groff was assigned had only a postmaster and three RCAs (including Groff) available for Sunday deliveries. Because Groff would not work on Sundays, only three individuals remained who could work on Sundays during the peak season. After the one RCA who covered for Groff was injured, only the Holtwood Postmaster and the remaining RCA were available to work the Sunday shift. This placed a great strain on the Holtwood Post Office personnel and even resulted in the Postmaster delivering mail on some Sundays. The Holtwood Postmaster testified, “[o]ther carriers were being forced to cover [Groff’s] shifts and give up their family time, their ability to attend church services if they would have liked to,” and these additional demands “created a tense atmosphere with the other RCAs.” At the hub, Groff’s absences also had an impact on operations and morale. The hub supervisor testified that Groff’s absence made timely delivery more difficult, and carriers had to deliver more mail. As at the Holtwood Post Office, Groff’s absence also had a negative impact on morale among the RCAs at the hub and resulted in a Union grievance being filed. According to management, allowing Groff to swap shifts was the only accommodation that would not impact operations and exempting him from the rotation would result in other employees “do[ing] more than their share of burdensome work.” Thus, Groff’s absences caused, and exempting Groff from Sunday work would continue to cause, an undue hardship. Because exempting Groff from Sunday work caused undue hardship, USPS did not violate Title VII by declining to grant his accommodation.
CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-FIRST AMENDMENT-RELIGION-REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION-US POSTAL SERVICE
May 27th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law