ANN ARBOR, MI — The Thomas More Law Center (“TMLC”), earlier this week, filed a friend of the court brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Groff v. DeJoy — the most important case affecting religious freedom in the workplace in more than four decades. TMLC, a national nonprofit public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, represents over 400 physicians, surgeons, nurses, and medical professionals who have faced the loss of their careers, unpaid suspensions, and the denial of accommodations due to their sincerely held religious beliefs.
The brief, authored by Erin Elizabeth Mersino, TMLC’s Chief of Supreme Court and Appellate Practices, details how Title VII, the federal statute meant to protect the rights of employees, was amended in 1972 to broaden its religious exercise protections. At the time of its passage, Senator Randolph who sponsored the amendment, explained that it would mirror the First Amendment and protect “not merely belief, but also conduct; the freedom to believe, and also the freedom to act.” Title VII’s amendment required an employer to accommodate its employee’s religious exercise, so long as doing so did not cause “undue hardship.”
Senator Randolph’s explanation was of no avail. Just five years later in 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted Title VII’s religious freedom protections. In TWA v. Hardison, the U.S. Supreme Court re-wrote Title VII from the bench and determined that “undue burden” actually meant nothing more than a “de minimis” or trivial cost. In its brief, TMLC analyzes how those terms “undue hardship” (meaning excessively hard to bear) and “de minimis” (meaning very small, even comparable to a fraction of a penny) are not interchangeable.
In fact, Justice Thurgood Marshall dissented in TWA v. Hardison, warning that the Court’s decision nullified Title VII’s religious liberty protections. And he was right.
In TWA v. Hardison, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a religious employee’s right to observe the Sabbath was not protected by Title VII because TWA, one of the largest airlines in the world at the time, would have had to pay an extra $150 a month in overtime until the employee could be transferred to a different department. Our religious liberty is certainly worth a conglomerate being burdened $150. In truth, it is priceless.
TMLC’s President and Chief Counsel commented, “It’s imperative that we restore religious liberty protection in the workplace in the face of the relentless attacks by huge corporations beholden to the radical ideologies which are contrary to our Constitutional values.”
Mersino stated, “I am optimistic the Court will finally overrule TWA v. Hardison. The case has plagued American workplaces for too long, allowing employers to discriminate against people of faith and too often leaving employees with the untenable choice: abandon your faith or abandon your livelihood.”
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case on April 18, 2023. A decision is expected by the end of June 2023.
The Thomas More Law Center’s Brief can be found here.
SOURCE Thomas More Law Center