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Agudath Israel Applauds a historic Supreme Court Decision Boosting Religious Accommodation in the workplace

By 06/29/2023 5:50 PMNo CommentsBy YidInfo Staff


A significant decision by the US Supreme Court that strengthens the protections provided to religious employees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is being applauded by Agudath Israel of America.

The majority ruling in Groff v. DeJoy effectively nullifies over fifty years’ worth of court rulings that attacked Americans’ right to practice their religions, including keeping the Sabbath, in the workplace.

Agudath Israel has been advocating for the outcome of today’s ruling for many years in the courts, state legislatures, and Congress.

A mailman who was an Evangelical Christian and refused to work on Sundays left the United States Postal Service and filed a lawsuit against the Postmaster General, seeking damages.

The lower courts rejected the claim, citing both the 1977 TWA v. Hardison case, where “undue hardship” was defined as simply “more than a de minimis cost” or more than a “trivial burden,” and the statutory standard that an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practice unless doing so would cause the employer an “undue hardship.”

The Supreme Court rejected the “more than de minimis” standard’s feeble protection in the Groff case.

The definition of “undue hardship” was changed to include “substantially increased costs in relation to the conduct of [an employer’s] particular business.” The main objective of the amicus curiae “friend of the court” brief written by Nathan Lewin, Esq., on behalf of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (“COLPA”), which was joined by Agudath Israel of America and a number of other Jewish organizations, was to reject the “more than de minimis” Hardison standard.

In the decades after the Hardison decision, the greater than de minimis criterion has hurt innumerable Americans of religion, including Orthodox Jews, as the Court acknowledged.

Rabbi Abba Cohen, vice president for government affairs and director of Agudath Israel in Washington, outlined the main challenge to granting religious employees of all faiths legal protections.

The bar was so low that neither employers nor workers bothered to make an effort to accommodate the other since they knew that doing so would result in annoyance and expense if they lost their case.

Now, we are satisfied that the legislation more accurately represents the goals and intentions of Congress, which aimed to safeguard the rights of religiously observant workers.

According to Daniel Kaminetsky, Esq., General Counsel for Agudath Israel, “Today’s decision will undoubtedly have a direct impact on countless individuals who will enjoy greater protection in the workplace as a result of the Court’s decision.

Agudath Israel extends a particular thank you to Mr. Lewin for his efforts on this matter over the past almost 50 years. In the Hardison case, he wrote a friend of the court brief on behalf of the Orthodox Jewish community, as well as numerous others throughout the years, culminating in the brief that resulted in today’s decision.

Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudah, declared that the battle for religious observance must be noted in order to properly depict the history of American Jewry.

And it is impossible to discuss that struggle’s history without including Nat Lewin’s amazing achievements.


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bobby bracros

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