Judges to Provide Answer in the Case of the Religious Postman | News, sports, jobs

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Lancaster – Gerald Grove loved his job as a postal clerk in the Amish area of ​​Pennsylvania. For years, he’s been delivering mail and all kinds of packages: bumper, mini-fridge, 70-pound box of blacksmith’s horseshoes. But when Amazon.com’s contract with the US Postal Service required carriers to start delivering packages on Sunday, Groff refused. A Christian told his employers that he couldn’t deliver packages on Lord’s Day.

Grove’s dispute with the Postal Service has now reached the US Supreme Court, which will hear his case on Tuesday. Lower courts have sided with the Postal Service, which says Groff’s request for Sundays off meant extra work for other employees and caused tension. Grove, for his part, argues that employers can easily deny employee requests for religious accommodations, and if he wins, that could change.

“We can’t really go back and change what happened to me,” said Groff, who eventually quit his job during the Sunday shifts. But he says others “don’t have to choose between their job and their faith.”

Grove’s case concerns Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination in employment. The law requires employers to accommodate employees’ religious practices unless doing so would be “undue hardship” for the company.

Grove grew up in Lancaster County, where he attended Mennonite schools and lived in a house across the street from his grandparents’ farm. He said that his grandfather’s death around the time he graduated from high school was a turning point for him, and helped motivate him to work as a missionary.

While Groff has a college degree in biology, over the years he has gone on eight expedition trips lasting anywhere from two months to two years that have taken him to Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

He did various jobs in between but in 2012 he found a job with the Postal Service, working regularly as a mail carrier when other carriers were down or sick.

“I really enjoyed the job from the start. You can be out in the country, outdoors… It’s a beautiful place to live and work, and I really enjoyed it and planned to do it unless God called me into a mission field somewhere,” Grove said of his job as an associate. rustic vector.

As a full mail carrier, he eventually learned 22 different routes, which he would drive in his Honda CR-V, hitting 500 to 800 mailboxes per day. In the end, he hoped to become an ordinary mail carrier, with his own set path.

Soon after Groff joined the Postal Service, she signed a contract with Amazon to deliver packages on Sundays. After about four years on the job, Grove was told he would have to start working his share of Sunday shifts. Grove said no. Sunday, he says, is “a day when we gather as Christian believers and honor the Lord’s Day.”

“To give up,” Groff said, “delivering Amazon packages is to give up everything we believe in.”

To avoid working Sunday, Grove gave up his seniority at the post office in rural Quarryville, Pennsylvania, where the parking lot includes two “horse and cart only” spaces. He moved to a smaller office in nearby Holtwood, which wasn’t doing deliveries after Sunday. Ultimately, however, Sunday deliveries were required there as well.

Grove told his supervisor that he would work extra shifts and holidays to avoid Sundays. The superintendent attempted to find other carriers for Groff’s Sunday shifts, though finding replacements was time consuming and not always possible. Meanwhile, Grove’s absence, officials said, created a tense environment, led to resentment toward management and contributed to morale problems. This also meant that other carriers had to run more Sundays or sometimes deliver more Sunday mail than they would otherwise. Groff’s supervisor said one tanker was transferred and another resigned because of the situation.

In the end, Groff missed enough on Sundays that he was disciplined. He said he resigned in 2019 rather than wait to be fired, then file a religious discrimination lawsuit.

Grove says that under the 1977 Supreme Court case, Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, employers don’t have to show much to prove undue hardship and can deny employees religious accommodations when they charge “more than a small cost” to work. The case was 7-2 in favor of the TWA with both liberals and conservatives in the majority.

But Grove’s attorney, Hiram Sasser, of the First Liberty Institute, says Hardison’s case “has kind of been a confrontation between staff and the public.” “They have to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to try and win one of their cases, and I mean, it’s not right,” he said.

Grove wants the Supreme Court to say employers must show “significant difficulty or expense” if they want to deny a religious settlement.

Attorneys for the Biden administration representing the Postal Service say Hardison should be cleared to make clear that he offers significant protections for religious observance. But management also says that when internalizing the religious practices of one employee negatively affects other employees, it can be an undue hardship on the business.

Groff appears to have the upper hand. Three current justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch — have said the court should reconsider Hardison. In recent years, the court’s conservative majority has been particularly sympathetic to the concerns of religious plaintiffs.

Last year, for example, the court sided with another First Liberty client, a public high school football coach who wanted to be able to kneel and pray on the field after games.

Grove, for his part, has found other work since leaving the Postal Service. These days, he’s basically the postmaster of a retirement community of several thousand residents. He supervises a staff of volunteer residents who sort the mail and put it into mailboxes every day except Sunday.

There are no Sunday deliveries to Groff’s house either. He says he went in and snagged them on Amazon.

He said, “I can wait for those things.” “And if I need it that bad, I’ll go to the store and get it.”

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