Alabama Center for Law and Liberty (ACLL) president Matt Clark told 1819 News on Wednesday that one recent U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling has the potential to help Alabamains who lost their jobs for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine due to religious beliefs.
On Thursday, SCOTUS ruled 9-0 in favor of a postal worker, Gerald E. Groff, who was fired from his U.S. Postal Service (USPS) job for refusing to work on Sundays for religious reasons, arguing that Groff's rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been violated by his employer.
"Last Thursday, the Supreme Court drastically increased protection for religious freedom in the workplace in Groff v. DeJoy," Clark explained. "... Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires employers to accommodate their employees unless doing so would impose an 'undue hardship' on the employer. In a landmark case, the Supreme Court held in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison that an undue hardship existed if it imposed anything more than a de minimis burden on an employer."
"However, in Groff, the Court revisited Hardison," he continued. "In a 9-0 decision, the Court held that an 'undue hardship' exists when 'a burden is substantial in the overall context of the employer's business.' Under the old de minimis test, the employer could be excused from accommodating an employee for minor inconveniences. However, employers will now have to prove that they will incur some kind of substantial cost before they are excused from working with their employees."
Clark insisted this was good news for several Alabamians.
"Many Alabamians refused to take the vaccine because of its connection with aborted fetal cells," he explained. "ACLL brought a class-action suit against United Launch Alliance in 2021 to stop the company from firing such employees. While we were not able to stop them from getting fired, our clients' claims are still before the EEOC."
Clark said that if employers had asked the concerned employees to work remotely, socially distance and wear masks, test weekly or prove natural immunity, it might be difficult for them to reconcile their choices with the new Groff standard.
"Because their case is still live, it is likely that Groff will drastically increase their chances of success," Clark added.
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