Becket to Supreme Court: No one should be fired for keeping holy days

WASHINGTON – Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the Supreme Court yesterday in support of Gerald Groff, a former postal carrier who was denied a religious accommodation to observe his Sunday Sabbath. At the center of the case is a legal standard the Court adopted in the 1977 case Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, which has allowed businesses to discriminate against religious employees for years. 

Hardison stripped civil rights protections from religious Americans—especially people of minority faiths—by allowing businesses to deny their employees religious accommodations if it even minimally burdens their bottom line.  Becket’s brief argues that the Court’s ruling in Hardison was the direct result of outdated thinking about the Establishment Clause from Lemon v. Kurtzman, which was overruled last summer. Lemon made the Hardison Court fear that even accommodating minority religious practices would somehow be unconstitutional.  

“The Supreme Court was scared of its own shadow on religious questions in the 1970s, but that is no excuse for denying people their civil rights today,” said Mark Rienzi, president and CEO of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

Becket has represented multiple religious Americans who were discriminated against because of Lemon and Hardison, including in Patterson v. Walgreens and Dalberiste v. GLE Associates. With Lemon now overturned, Becket’s brief argues that the Court can fix the law and protect religious employees like Gerald Groff from discrimination. The brief proposes that Hardison should be replaced by a similar standard to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the only other federal law with the exact same language regarding workplace accommodations.    

Lemon has haunted the law for too long, and too many American workers have had their rights taken away because of outdated Establishment Clause thinking that helps big corporations like Google or Facebook but hurts workers,” said Rienzi. “Those are harms inflicted by bad Supreme Court decisions, and the Court now has a chance to get it right and make clear that religious people don’t have to leave their faith at home when they come to work.” 

Groff is represented by Aaron Streett of Baker Botts L.L.P. and First Liberty Institute. Oral arguments will take place on April 18, 2023.  

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7219.Interviews can be arranged in English, Mandarin, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. 

Groff v. DeJoy

SCOTUS guts religious rights 

For decades, many Americans have been forced to choose between their faith and their job because of the 1977 Supreme Court decision in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison. In that case, the Court ruled that one of the nation’s largest airlines did not have to provide a religious accommodation to an employee who could not work on his Sabbath day due to his religious beliefs. Although Title VII of the Civil Rights Act says that employers must reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs and practices, the Court ruled that employers only need to prove a minimal burden on the operation of their business to deny employees accommodations.  

As legal scholars have pointed out, Hardison was the result of the Supreme Court’s outdated Establishment Clause thinking from its now-overturned decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman.  Lemon made the Hardison Court fear that even accommodating minority religious practices would be unconstitutional. In the years that followed, this legal standard has been used by large companies to discriminate against religious employees in ways that would be unthinkable to other protected groups under federal law.  

Hardison punishes religious minorities 

Over the years, Becket has defended multiple religious Americans—especially those of minority faiths—who were discriminated against by their employers under Hardison. Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the Supreme Court in EEOC v. Abercombie, a case in which an Abercrombie & Fitch store refused to hire a Muslim woman because the district manager said her headscarf might conflict with the store’s dress code policy.  

In Patterson v. Walgreen Co., Becket represented Darrell Patterson, a dedicated Walgreens employee and devout Seventh-day Adventist who was fired from his position after he could not attend a training session on his Sabbath. Patterson asked the Supreme Court to hear his case, and while three Justices expressed the need to reconsider Hardison, the Court declined to review. In Dalberiste v. GLE Associates, Becket represented a devout Seventh-day Adventist who was also denied his religious rights soon after receiving a job offer. Mitche Dalberiste requested a scheduling accommodation for his Sabbath observance from his new employer, but instead of respecting his religious beliefs, the company rescinded his offer of employment. Again, the Court decided to delay reconsidering Hardison for a future case. 

In 2023, the Supreme Court decided to review a case of a religious employee who was discriminated against by the U.S. Postal Service. Gerald Groff began working as a USPS carrier in 2012, and his religious beliefs require him to observe the Sunday Sabbath. After USPS began delivering packages on Sunday for Amazon, Groff offered to take extra shifts on weekdays and holidays to avoid working on his Sabbath. USPS initially granted him an accommodation, but then changed its mind and began scheduling Groff for Sunday work. Groff refused to violate his faith, and faced termination until he ultimately resigned in 2019. Groff’s case before the Supreme Court now has the potential to overturn Hardison, which would protect religious employees nationwide and bury this discriminatory legal standard for good. 

Religious Americans deserve protection in the workplace 

Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Groff’s case, arguing that the Hardison decision was the result of outdated Establishment Clause thinking from the now-overturned decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman. The brief outlines the history of Lemon’s impact on Hardison and argues that because Lemon is now overturned, the court has the chance to set a better legal standard that protects religious employees as Congress intended.  

Becket argues that the new standard should resemble the one from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the only other federal law with the same language regarding workplace accommodations. Under the ADA, employers must reasonably accommodate a person’s disability unless the employer can show that the accommodation imposes a substantial hardship to business operations. Applying this same standard to religious accommodations would replace the minimal burden test under Hardison that has allowed businesses to discriminate against their employees for decades.  

Importance to Religious Liberty: 

Individual Freedom: Religious exercise encompasses more than just thought or worship—it involves visibly practicing faith, at home and at work. All Americans must be free to live according to their consciences without fear of losing their jobs. 

Supreme Court 2020-21: Heroic foster moms, keeping the Sabbath holy, No Fly List meets RFRA

WASHINGTON – The 2019 Supreme Court term was a banner year for religious liberty, with big Becket wins in Our Lady and Little Sisters. In the upcoming 2020 term, which begins September 29, the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to protect heroic foster families, address the liability of government officials who violate RFRA and consider the case of a practicing Seventh-day Adventist who lost his job for requesting an accommodation for his Sabbath observance.

Sharonell Fulton and Toni Simms-Busch, two women of color who have fostered more than 40 children between them, have a life-saving legacy in the Philadelphia community. Sharonell and Toni chose to partner with Catholic Social Services, which shares and affirms their most deeply held beliefs. In Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, Sharonell and Toni are challenging the City’s anti-Catholic discrimination after the City stopped partnering with Catholic Social Services over their home study referrals. On November 4, Becket will represent these foster moms at the Court, arguing that religious groups shouldn’t have to give up their beliefs in order to serve those most in need.

Mitche Dalberiste had just been hired for his first job after college when his offer was rescinded because he requested a scheduling accommodation so he could observe his Sabbath day. Forced to choose between his faith and providing for his family, Mr. Dalberiste sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which requires employers to reasonably accommodate religious practice. In Dalberiste v. GLE Associates, Becket is asking the Court to revisit past Supreme Court precedent in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison and vindicate the right of Americans of all faiths to live and work according to their religious beliefs.

In the early days of the Obama administration three Muslim men were put on the FBI’s No Fly List to coerce them into becoming informants against their own Muslim communities. Fast-forward a decade and the Trump administration has taken the lead from its predecessor in defending the FBI’s alleged bullying tactics at the Supreme Court. In Tanzin v. Tanvir, Becket is arguing that individual government officials can be held liable for violating religious freedom under RFRA.

Join the nation’s religious freedom experts to discuss these and other religious liberty cases to watch this coming term including Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski and Presbytery of Seattle v. Schulz. On the call we will discuss the themes for the upcoming term, cases being heard this term and preview petitions currently pending before the Court. We will take questions at the end of the call.

For more information about the agenda click here.

Preview of the SCOTUS 2020-21 Term

Mark Rienzi, president of Becket
Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket

Tuesday, September 22, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. EDT

301-715-8592 (pin: 914-1188-8332) or join
Email questions in advance to 

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7219.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.