Press Release

Becket to Supreme Court: No one should be fired for keeping holy days Justices to decide if religious employees can be fired for keeping the Sabbath

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

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  Becket’s brief argues that the Court’s ruling in Hardison was the direct result of outdated thinking about the Establishment Clause from Lemon v. Kurtzman, which was overruled last summer.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Lemon has haunted the law for too long, and too many American workers have had their rights taken away because of outdated Establishment Clause thinking that helps big corporations like Google or Facebook but hurts workers,” said Rienzi.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.