Religious Accommodations Case Gets Supreme Court Review

The United States Supreme Court will review during this term, a religious accommodations case involving an employee of the United States Postal Service. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has updated a resource document on hearing disabilities in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) requires employers to post by February 1st, a form detailing work-related illnesses and injuries during the previous year and also has increased its civil penalties to reflect the increase in the cost of living. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued the employment cost index for 2022.


Supreme Court to Review Religious Accommodation Case – The United States Supreme Court has agreed to review a case, Gerald Groff v. Louis DeJoy, Postmaster General, United States Post Office that raises the issue of whether failure to accommodate a requested religious accommodation violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In upholding the dismissal of the case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit concluded that “Groff’s  proposed  accommodation  of  being exempted from Sunday work would cause an undue hardship.  Exempting Groff  from  working  on  Sundays caused more than a de minimis cost  on  USPS because it actually imposed on his  coworkers, disrupted the workplace and workflow,   and diminished employee morale.” The Supreme Court will decide this case during the current term that ends in June.


Gerald Groff who worked as a rural carrier associate (RCA) for the United States Postal Service (USPS) observed the Sabbath on Sunday and his religious beliefs dictated that Sunday was designed for worship and rest. An RCA is a non-career employee who provides coverage for absent career employees, working as needed resulting in the job requiring flexibility. He informed the USPS that he was not able to work on Sundays. USPS offered to find employees to swap shifts with him, but on over twenty Sundays, no co-worker would swap shifts and he refused to work. The USPS disciplined him, and he ultimately left his employment. Mr. Groff subsequently sued USPS claiming its failure to reasonably accommodate his religion violated Title VII. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit believed that the requested accommodation would create an undue burden on the USPS and affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of the lawsuit.


The Third Circuit cited the United States Supreme Court decision in the case of TWA v. Hardison in which the court held that to require the employer to bear more than a de minimis cost to accommodate a religious request would be an undue hardship. The Third Circuit noted that both economic and non-economic costs suffered by the employer can constitute an undue hardship. Examples of undue hardship, according to the Third Circuit include “negative impacts on  the employer’s operations, such as on productivity or quality, personnel and overtime costs, increased workload on other employees, and reduced employee  morale.”


EEOC Issues Resource Document on Hearing Disabilities in the Workplace – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has updated a resource document titled “Hearing Disabilities in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).” The document, which includes a number of examples, notes that the ADA applies to applicants and employees who are deaf or hard of hearing or have other hearing conditions.


The resource documents advised that about 15 percent of American adults report some trouble hearing. These individuals may have a variety of different hearing conditions that may constitutes disabilities under the ADA.

According to the EEOC, the document provides information about:

  • when an employer may ask an applicant or employee questions about a hearing condition and how it should treat disclosures that are made voluntarily,
    • what types of reasonable accommodations applicants or employees with hearing disabilities may need,
    • how an employer should handle any safety concerns they may have about applicants and employees with hearing disabilities, and
    • how an employer can ensure that no employee is harassed because of a hearing disability or any other disability.

    “Employers have a legal responsibility to create fair workplaces for all employees and job applicants who need reasonable accommodations,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “The practical questions and answers and realistic scenarios in this updated document will help educate employers on those responsibilities and employees about their rights.”


    OSHA Update – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires most employers with at least ten full-time employees to post by February 1st, Form 300A, which contains a summary of work-related injuries and illnesses from the previous year. The form needs to be posted until at least May 1st and must be certified by a company official. Minor injuries that are treated only by first aid do not need to be recorded.  The annual summary must be completed and posted even if no injuries or illnesses occurred during the year. According to Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, “OSHA believes that it’s vital for the public to have access to illness and injury information that employers provide in their annual submissions.”


    OSHA also announced changes to the 2023 civil penalty amounts. A 2015 law requires federal agencies to adjust annually, based on the cost of living, the level of civil monetary penalties. The new OSHA civil monetary penalties adjusted effective January 17, 2023. OSHA's maximum penalties for serious and other-than-serious violations will increase from $14,502 per violation to $15,625 per violation. The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations will increase from $145,027 per violation to $156,259 per violation.


    2022 Employment Cost Index Released – The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced in its quarterly employment cost index that in 2022, compensation costs (wages, salaries, and employer costs for benefits) for civilian workers increased by 5.1%. This is an increase from the 4.5% increase in 2021. Benefits costs increased 4.9% during 2022 and 2.8% in 2021.


    Neil Reichenberg is the former executive director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources. He is an attorney, a frequent writer and speaker on public policy and human resource issues, and an adjunct faculty member at George Mason University. For questions or additional information, contact Reichenberg at