A Calendar With Sundays Marked Out
Gerald Groff is suing his former employer for not letting him take every Sunday off to practice his faith. Should his weekly religious observance be accommodated by his employer? 

A former Pennsylvania mailman is suing the U.S. Postal Service for forcing him to work on the Lord's Day.

Self-described evangelical Christian Gerald Groff filed a lawsuit against the USPS, which employed him for the last seven years. He’s claiming he was unfairly forced out of his job after refusing to work Sundays for religious reasons.

Although Groff had always gone to extraordinary lengths to make up for his holy day off by trading shifts, working holidays, evenings, and Saturdays, the federal lawsuit claims the Postal Service began enforcing a no-exceptions Sunday policy and disciplined him with suspensions lasting up to two weeks at a time. Finally, he was let go.

Does he have a case?

Is It Discrimination?

Groff’s attorney, David Crossett, made an emotional case against this perceived religious discrimination:

“In a free and respectful society, government should recognize those differences among us that make us great, rather than punishing those differences, particularly when those differences result from our sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Aside from demanding his full reinstatement, complete with back pay and a yet-to-be-determined compensation for emotional distress, Groff has also requested the Postal Service change its policies in order to provide equal employment opportunities for those who choose to observe the Sabbath on Sundays, although the lawsuit made no mention of any other religions - either official or unofficial. It stands to reason that if Groff is successful, the USPS will have to accommodate all sincerely held religious beliefs, 

Though it may seem like a legal long shot, Groff could very well be taking his cues from a devout Christian from Miami, who earned quite the windfall for her own religious persecution.

Although Marie Jean Pierre was fired from her job as a hotel dishwasher in 2016 for refusing to work on Sundays, a federal jury eventually awarded her a cool $21 million in punitive damages (as well as $36,000 for lost wages and $500,000 for emotional anguish) after she sued the Conrad Hotel on the basis of religious discrimination. Similar to Groff’s case against USPS, Pierre was willing to trade shifts with her co-workers to accommodate her desired day of rest. But her employer eventually demanded she work her shift as-scheduled. After six weeks of no-shows, she was let go.

How Far Should Religious Exemptions Go?

Although such examples are few and far between in the Western world, the American non-profit Workplace Fairness notes religion-based discrimination cases have risen 41% between 1997 and 2015, with subsequent payouts up a staggering 174%.

The organization insists the denial of accommodation for religious beliefs or practices remains the most common form of discrimination, contravening both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

"This can include requiring an employee to work on his Sunday Sabbath, even though other employees are willing to trade shifts with him; forcing an employee to remove her hijab (scarf) to comply with the company's dress code even though other employees wear baseball caps on the job; not allowing employees to display religious icons or other expressions of religious belief in their work spaces, although employees are allowed to display other types of personal items."

There are most definitely a lot of workplace protections for religious beliefs, and it’s worth noting that the religion doesn’t have to be a traditional, organized religion like Christianity or Islam. It can be “a completely unique set of beliefs, but those beliefs must be sincere and meaningful.”

That could, conceivably, leave a lot of room for abuse. But then again, is a postal worker trading shifts so he can get Sundays off to observe his religion really causing undue hardship to a business that employs half a million people?

In our secular society, religious employees should have reasonable accommodations made to practice their faith. And employers should not suffer undue hardship from religious exemptions.

The question is, where is that line?

53 comments

  1. Paul J. Fumero's Avatar Paul J. Fumero

    Some jobs require weekend work. If anyone can't do that, then get a different job. Me receiving letters or packages from the USPS should not hinge on some religious person refusing to do their job.

    1. Michael Ohliger's Avatar Michael Ohliger

      For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:11)

    2. Michael Joseph Ortiz's Avatar Michael Joseph Ortiz

      He should get a job at hobby lobby!

  1. Adam's Avatar Adam

    "Sincere and meaningful" are vague terms that can be used for many purposes. In the case of religious accommodation, the employee of the post office who knew Sunday was part of the schedule (or a uniform was to be worn for that matter) when he applied should not complain. On the other hand, a significant change on his schedule or dress code that infringes on his religious beliefs after he started working should be looked at more carefully. The same goes for an employee who changes religions and then wants the religious accommodation. We need to decide if we want to live in a secular country or a country that is governed by religious groups.

    1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      Nope sorry, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act clearly says that your company cannot make you work on your "sabbath" if you choose not to and they cannot fire you for refusing. They on the other hand CAN make you work extra hours to make up the difference.

      And sicne this is federal law it makes no difference what you think about it or what rules your company has. They must follow the law just like everyone else must

      1. Rev. Dennis's Avatar Rev. Dennis

        Please indicate where in this title it states that your company cannot make you work on your sabbath. I could not find it anywhere.

        1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

          The Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on religion. Specifically, employers must accommodate an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs or practices. ... Employers must also make accommodations for employees whose religion teaches them not to work on the Sabbath. Its very clear if you just read it

  1. Adam's Avatar Adam

    I forgot to include in my comment that I am a devout Christian and work every Sunday. My job told me when I applied that my schedule included Sundays. I go to church on Saturday or on other days. Or not at all.

    1. Robert Edward Szekely's Avatar Robert Edward Szekely

      Adam -

      I find your comments very noble, and I do agree with your point that we live in a multi-faith nation. So we need to maintain a secular government so that all faiths are respected equally. That having been said, I find that some employers do not value their employees, and so are unwilling to work with them in good faith. That is the underlying issue that I perceive in play here. You have found a solution that you are comfortable with, as have others. This individual should have an opportunity to work a solution that he is comfortable with as well. Each situation is unique, and must be judged on its own merits. He may practice his faith differently than you do.

    2. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      See my reply to you above.

    3. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

      Your opening comments opined that "sincere and meaningful are vague terms that can be used for many purposes". I think most would agreed with that. Then you use another vague term describing yourself as being "a devout Christian". So are you saying vague is okay, and should be open to interpretation, and not requiring definition? I've always wondered what people meant when they call themselves a 'devout' this, that, or the other. Sounds so pompous and full of self importance. Just curious.

  1. Robert Edward Szekely's Avatar Robert Edward Szekely

    As a Navy veteran, I can attest to the fact that all reasonable efforts are made not to assign additional duties or watches on an individual's religious day of rest. There are companies like the Chick-Fil-A franchise, for whom it is a corporate policy to be closed on Sundays, in support of the corporation President's Christian values. I understand that there are Christians who are willing to make adjustments to their day of worship to accommodate their employer, but by the same token, I believe the employer should be just as willing to make accommodations to any worker's sincere religious beliefs, if that employee requests it politely, sincerely and respectfully. A contract between an employer and an employee is a mutually-beneficial relationship, and it should be viewed as such. Any employer who views it otherwise is a bit of Luddite, and should not be in a leadership or supervisory rule, since they clearly lack empathy for people.

    1. David A Griffith's Avatar David A Griffith

      Chick-Fil-A is wrong and is discriminating against others beliefs. All stores may be closed on Sundays for Christians to attend worship services, but what about other religions, do they get there time off as well to attend worship services? Is a Muslim allowed to pray to Mecca five times a day?

      That’s the problem with most of what is being written here, it all is discussing Christian persecution with no thought or care to anyone else’s religion.

      Religion needs to be removed from government and the workplace. Corporations are not people, they are money making ventures whose goal is to make money for the stockholder.

      1. Rev. Dennis's Avatar Rev. Dennis

        I fully support Chick-Fil-A as it is there right, just as it is New Yorks B&H Photos right, to be closed on their day of worship (Saturday). When people are hired companies indicate the working hours that you are expected to work. If you cannot adhere to their requirements then don't work there.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    Sorry but yes this IS discrimination. The post office can have made accommodations, for instance making him work an extra 2 hours to 2.5 hours a day on his regular shift and letting him have sunday off. For instance Chrysler was sued by a 7th Day Adventist claiming that requiring him to work past sundown on friday to sundown on saturday was a violation of his religious rights as assured him in the US Constitution. The US Supreme Court ruled in his favor saying this was in fact a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. and the first amendment which protects employees from discrimination based on their protected class which includes religion. Even the EEOC has upheld a persons right to celebrate their religions "day of rest". The USPS could have allowed him to work a double shift (and no they would not have had to pay him overtime for it as it did not exceed 40 hours) or again have allowed him to work extra hours during the other days of his shift or have made him come in after sundown on Saturday and complete his work week. They didnt. So in this case they are going to lose. Just like Kellogs lost their case when they tried this https://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/story/news/local/2018/01/19/two-seventh-day-adventists-suing-kellogg-co-religious-discrimination/1049334001/

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    If the work gets done on time, at- or under-budget, and no one gets hurt in the process - what's the big deal? And why isn't the Union raising hell?

    Not sure what the "no exceptions policy" is, but if it wasn't enforced 'before' it appears USPS began enforcing it with the goal of firing the worker. The rule was 'no exceptions' but we won't enforce it (unless we want to kick someone to the curb) and then it was enforced. Changing the rules in mid-stream is not legally or morally acceptable. This is my exception to freedom from religion policies - sue the bejesus out of 'em. And win.

    1. Linda Salavarria's Avatar Linda Salavarria

      👍

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        and he died win

  1. Therion Tiberius Ware's Avatar Therion Tiberius Ware

    I am toying with becoming a "rotating theist" and may be able to wangle every day in the week off...

    Monday Buddhist, Tuesday Mars, Wednesday Odinist, Thursday Thor, Friday Islam, Saturday Judaism Sunday Christianity.

    1. Barry David Robins's Avatar Barry David Robins

      Hey Therion, i love your tongue in cheek rotating theist idea. I can respect those who are genuine in their sabbath beliefs, unfortunately there are also those who merely want to game the system. Seniority rules in union jobs like USPS, and when the rookie is confronted with reality sometimes they suddenly become ‘devout’. I’m speaking from experience as i’ve seen it happen in a union job, miraculous conversion and religious persecution if they don’t get their way.

      1. CB's Avatar CB

        Have seen it , too. Sadly, there are those who will "game the system".

  1. Gina Sanacore's Avatar Gina Sanacore

    I must say this is a really tough one. But if I had convictions about not working on a particular day I would probably have changed jobs rather than started an issue. I believe in love. Love is the answer to every question. if the employer is not showing the love then I need to show the love. and by showing the love I would choose another day to worship or I would step down and find a job that I could be off on a Sunday. but this is this guy's journey. And he needs to come to this conclusion on his own. We can discuss this all we want but the bottom line is he needs to learn from it and he needs to make the right decision.

  1. Martha Knight's Avatar Martha Knight

    The culture of the employment provider or of the workplace or job is something for applicant to consider when seeking a job. Dairy farmers milk their cows on Sundays. Seventh-Day believers milk their cows on Saturdays. If the ox or donkey falls into a pit, the Hebrew Nation people, obeying the Mosaic Law, knew they must pull the unfortunate beast to safety.

    However, the employer that changes its rules, well after employees have come aboard and become accustomed to a certain amount of flexibility, shift trading and so on, in order to accommodate personal needs (care for a child or infirm parent, for instance) should not force employees to give up their jobs because of rule changes. Those employees have forgone other opportunities for employment, in some cases-- other jobs where they could have been building experience and seniority.

  1. Stewart's Avatar Stewart

    Freedom of religion dose not mean everyone else must honor your beliefs . Simply put you have the choice to worship however you want without the goverment stepping in and saying you cant worship that because we say only this is allowed .

    Now as to limiting days places etc as long as every religion is required to follow that rule well to bad you have too as well with this caveat On privatly held property with the owners permission do as you please unless it harms another . Religion belongs in a church or at home on public property or that f another you have no right to force your views on everyone else . If you try to preach at me on the sidewalk will politely tell you no thanks if you come on my property you will be asked to leave if you continue will use that amount of force needed to remove a nuisance . Your right to anything ends where mine start religion is personal I do not need saving I do not need to be taught your interpretation of which ever holy text you read . If thers one true god why oh why do u need 20,000 denominations disagreeing on what exactly was said by whom .

    1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      Sorry but you are completely and totally incorrect. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act clearly says that employers MUST make religious accommodations or they can be sued. And I have already given different federal lawsuits stating same like Kellogs and Chrysler and Walgreens and so on.

      So again my apologies but you are wrong and need to change your opinion to fit what US law says

      1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

        You seem to be concerned about the issue be legal, and that has it's merits for sure. However as the majority of the nation agree, government should not be and cannot be (legally) creating laws based on any style of religion, period. The social and economic chaos in the USA right now is valid evidence that people want freedom from religious confinement and discrimination made by the current government. People will only respect laws when the laws are respectful.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    I wonder if he’s also happy to stone people to death if he sees someone picking up sticks on the sabbath being as his god condones it.

    🦁❤️

    1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

      must not have read the decree right. after sundown its no longer the sabbath

  1. Jake Reynolds's Avatar Jake Reynolds

    He's rattling the cage because the PC squad is allowing all this crud, he knew it before hiring, bottom line, forget it.

    1. Linda Salavarria's Avatar Linda Salavarria

      Ok but the policy existed during his whole 7 year tenure. Why are they only making issue with it now? Sounds like they apply policy when it is convenient. That's where USPS will run into a problem in court...inconsistent application of policy.

  1. Lori Mongillo's Avatar Lori Mongillo

    If Groff is permitted to attain money for discrimination, it will become an eye opening treasure trove to all who seek an opportunity to sue their employers for not accommodating their religious belief. People are people and they're not always honest. unfortunately the only way to get around it is to have rules, regardless of religious beliefs. If people were always sincere it would not be necessary to enforce rules. I'm Pagan. I should get the full moons off, along with the other 8 sabbaths. That will never happen, even though it is a recognized religion, and I wouldn't expect to receive any such favor from an employer. A job is a job and it has nothing to do with how we worship. God does not care if we prayer morning, noon or night. It is a choice to take a job that does not accommodate one's personal beliefs. It is not the employers job to accommodate anyone, unless the employer chooses to do so.

  1. Woodrow's Avatar Woodrow

    That line is in the United States' Constitution.

  1. Rev. Dennis's Avatar Rev. Dennis

    The article does not state if the Sunday workday was in place when he was hired. I have had many relatives work for the USPS over the years and they never worked Sundays. Knowing this information is necessary to make a judgement call on this.

    That being said, if you apply for a job and the employer does disclose that weekend or specific day work, is a required part of the job then you must work it if you want the job. If you do not want to work these days then don't take the job.

  1. Tom's Avatar Tom

    Respectfully...while I personally think religion should have nothing to do with someone else's business, an easy solution would be ti have the job-seeker be shown the time requirements up front, in writing, and initialed...Peace...Tom B

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    Recently, USPS started sometimes delivering packages to me on Sundays from Amazon Prime. Before then I never saw a mail truck/van on a Sunday, and assumed they had the day off. I mentioned that to a postal worker, and he said they deliver on Sunday for Amazon. Go Amazon ! I very much appreciate knowing that, since Amazon is my favorite place to shop. I bet a lot of their Christian employees are glad to work on Sundays, so they'll have an excuse to get out of going to church. And maybe if it keeps them away from church long enough they'll realize it really wasn't something they liked to do anyway, and will replace those evil Christian beliefs with something better.

  1. Ren's Avatar Ren

    Clearly, he's trying to comply with the Ten Commandments not realizing that Christians have been RELEASED from the Old Covenant (of which the Ten Commandments are part) - Rm 7:6. Christians are bound by the New Covenant that is written on our hearts (Jer 31:31, Heb 8:8) - and what is that New Covenant? That we love our neighbors as Jesus loved us (Jn 13:34, 15:2), and love God with all our heart, soul and mind (Mt 22:36-40). To cling to the Ten Commandments is to reject the New Covenant, rejecting Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

    Besides, a proper reading of the Ten Commandments shows that the "Sabbath" is on the seventh day of the week - Saturday. So if you're not keeping the Sabbath on Saturday, you're just not keeping the Sabbath.

    1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

      Its typical of wannabe and false christians who dont actually bother studying theology or the history of the culture the faith was derived from. Hence why this case should be tossed out. This person is mixing up faith traditions, citing the wrong day as the day of rest, and just by the act of suing is clearly acting spiteful and vengeful 2 things no true Christian would ever allow themselves to even seem to be in the eyes of others.

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    I worked at a big company and from day 1 I was on called 24/7. My ID got me into the company at all hours. I did work at all hours. Many days 12 hours plus was common. I did it because if I did not I would have been replace with another monkey who would also work those strange hours. My job went to another company where they paid others at a lower salary then they paid me. It must be nice to tell a company that they have to adjust to my schedule instead of theres.

  1. Mark Hannon's Avatar Mark Hannon

    I always was expected to work "at will" so my employers could just fire me for any reason. Not being able to work on Sunday because of religion is pretty lame. Didn't Jesus do his work on Sunday, too? He said something about an ox in a ditch? What does God think about children working 7 days a week in African mines? Maybe the U.S. military should give all the Christians Sunday off? Ask somebody that works two or three jobs if they can get a day off for ANYTHING.

  1. Charlene Marie Sorrentino's Avatar Charlene Marie Sorrentino

    I must admit that I do long for the days when Sunday was considered a “holy” day. Where businesses were closed and families got to spend the day together.
    We would go to church, stop at the bakery on the way home and have a wonderful breakfast all together.
    It’s a shame that greed for more money incited big business to make Sunday a work day instead of family day.

    1. David A Griffith's Avatar David A Griffith

      Why does it have to be Sunday? I do agree with you that money is more important than family. Why are businesses open on Christmas, New Years Day, MLK day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, And Thanksgiving Day? All of these are Federal Holidays and employees should not be working! I would wager that many "Christian" businesses are open on these days.

      1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

        ....and why do calendars still show Sunday as the first day of the week? It's been called 'the weekend' since forever. Even in the bible it makes mention of the seventh day as the last day. Monday is the first day of the week.

  1. Linda Salavarria's Avatar Linda Salavarria

    I am never in favor of mandatory work scheduling...ever for any reason. There are so many folks looking for work there should be no reason a company cannot find temp or per diem employees to cover shifts. And they even get paid less since they get no benefits so companies save money! So the mandatory work policy is faulty to begin with. I have quit jobs when they mandate OT. People work, they are not owned. People have lives and personal responsibilities. Some are religious. This guy will win his case.

  1. David A Griffith's Avatar David A Griffith

    The perfect idea and no one can complain or stop you. The Christians will find a way to condemn you though, guaranteed.

    1. David Yonts SR's Avatar David Yonts SR

      I once work for a city water works. I stood up for the men that work their and the management did not like it. They knew I went to church every Sunday with my family. They change my schedule to 16 hrs. on Saturday , 16 hrs. Sunday and 8 hrs. on Wednesdays. They said they ck with their law office and it was ok to do. Mind this was in 1976. So I resign the next week. DAVE

  1. Rev. Dennis's Avatar Rev. Dennis

    I would need more information as it does not state all relevant facts in this case as to determine if there is a violation on the part of USPS

  1. James C Riggle's Avatar James C Riggle

    I can only offer... if you apply for a job that says Sunday's, or any day your sabeth falls on, are possible or madatory work days, then you must work. If you have a problem doing that you should work that out with the potential employer before accepting the position. If they don't want to accomedate your request, then don't accept the position. Some jobs requrie week long commitments, rotating schedules and not everyone can be accomidated. I just suggest you check before being hired. Just my thoughts.

  1. James M Slack's Avatar James M Slack

    This is my opinion only. I myself have had job where I had to work on weekends, and that included Sunday. I’m sure when this person was hired he knew that. If he now is rebelling against that. His only other thing he could do is find another job that a comadated him. Just remember a postal worker has good pay and retirement. I also don’t think he’d be working all Sundays. This is my feelings so good luck on finding a equal job as you have now James M Slack

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    I had a job that when I was hired as a chemical lab tech and I was told that it would be a 24/7 on called job. It was. I worked with Wilmar and we worked our tails off when it was called for. Eating the days meal was a common occurance. Spent Thankgiving one year at work with 40 other people. To solve a problem. Religious holidays were something you did on your own when work was needed.

    It was not unusally to hear off in one of the labs the Rabbi readly from memory his texts.

  1. Shannon L Frantzich's Avatar Shannon L Frantzich

    Federal law protects the freedom of religion, thus it being a federal agency (USPS) it must comply. If your are sincere and practice your faith faithfully you are in a protected status class of Title VII. In the above case the employee is not a employee but a civil servant of the Federal Government. How can the law be applied to others, but not unto its self.

  1. Charles Richard Bezio's Avatar Charles Richard Bezio

    Our country and society would be better off if employers would be more compassionate to their employees. This is not the way it works, if you want employment you must follow the rules.

    1. Charles Richard Bezio's Avatar Charles Richard Bezio

      Doesn’t make it right but the employee is wrong.

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