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Old 02-19-2020, 01:42 PM
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Christian sues US Postal Service over Sunday work shifts


AP story here:
Quote:
Gerald Groff, who says he is an evangelical Christian, filed a lawsuit Friday against the federal agency, claiming he was let go from his position after refusing to work on Sundays for religious reasons.

The federal lawsuit claims Groff worked “flexibly” to accommodate his convictions by offering to pick up holiday, evening and Saturday hours that others did not want to work.

Groff, who worked for the Postal Service for seven years, said the agency began enforcing a no-exceptions Sunday policy on him and “needlessly disciplined him,” according to a statement released by his defense Monday. The disciplinary methods included suspensions as long as two weeks.

The statement said he was eventually let go from his position.

“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,” said David Crossett, one of the attorneys representing Groff.
Here's the relief being sought:
Quote:
The lawsuit is seeking reinstatement of Groff’s position with accommodation, back pay and unspecified compensation for emotional distress. The complaint also requests for the agency to create policies that provide equal employment opportunities for religious observance of Sabbath on Sundays.
And lest anyone forgets, the article reminds us:
Quote:
The Postal Service is an independent government agency that does not use taxpayer money for its operations.
Will Mr. Groff prevail or fail? How and why? And which way would you prefer to see this case resolved?
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Old 02-19-2020, 01:44 PM
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My non-lawyer self would prefer that this be bounced right out of court as ridiculous. The door would be open to any number of impossible-to-accomodate "religious" "needs".

But I can't rule out a self-serving judiciary determined to ensure that religions get more "outs" than non-religion and that their religion gets the most of all, so I have no idea how this will ultimately be decided.
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Old 02-19-2020, 01:55 PM
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Why should only Sunday sabbaths get protection? Why not all sabbaths?

And, hey - he presumably was informed that working Sunday was required for the job when he applied. If his religious requirements changed such that he could no longer meet the job requirements then he should get a different job. Or a different religion.

No one is forcing him to work on Sundays. Nor should he be able to force an employer that needs people to work on Sundays to employ him. There are many workplaces that will never ask him to work on a Sunday, perhaps he should apply to one.
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:06 PM
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Will Mr. Groff prevail or fail? How and why? And which way would you prefer to see this case resolved?
There is some precedent under Title VII case law. Ansonia Board of Education v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60 (1986); Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison 432 U.S. 63 (1977). The standard that applies to private companies is based on Congress's powers to enforce the 14th amendment, and requires that employers show they would face an undue hardship if they accommodated the employee's requests. As to what constitutes an undue hardship, the guideline is de minimis, or the minimal amount. For example, having to pay other workers overtime to cover for the employee requesting accommodation counts as an undue hardship.

There is an additional First Amendment angle that could show up in this case because the USPS is a federal agency. But I highly doubt that will go anywhere; historically, the post office delivered mail on Sundays. It would actually be a violation of the First Amendment if the post office were closed on Sundays for religious reasons - if I remember correctly, it was the telegram and six-day workweek movement that closed the post office on Sundays.

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Last edited by Max S.; 02-19-2020 at 02:09 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:07 PM
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Why should only Sunday sabbaths get protection? Why not all sabbaths?

And, hey - he presumably was informed that working Sunday was required for the job when he applied. If his religious requirements changed such that he could no longer meet the job requirements then he should get a different job. Or a different religion.

No one is forcing him to work on Sundays. Nor should he be able to force an employer that needs people to work on Sundays to employ him. There are many workplaces that will never ask him to work on a Sunday, perhaps he should apply to one.
There was no Sunday requirement when he applied, but that doesn't mean the Post Office doesn't have a right to require employee to share in the Sunday shifts.
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:10 PM
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Seems like an easy win for the plaintiff, to me. Isn't it pretty much settled law that businesses have to make reasonable accommodations for religious requirements? There's six other days of the week Groff could be assigned hours. Why was it so hard to accommodate this request?
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:15 PM
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Who says sabbaths must be a single day? I hereby declare my sabbath to be Monday thru Friday, every week!
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:20 PM
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Seems like an easy win for the plaintiff, to me. Isn't it pretty much settled law that businesses have to make reasonable accommodations for religious requirements? There's six other days of the week Groff could be assigned hours. Why was it so hard to accommodate this request?
I can't pass judgement without hearing the post office's side. The requirement is not that the employer comply with an employee's reasonable request so long as there is no undue hardship - it is possible that the employer offered their own reasonable accommodation and the employee refused it, in which case the employer has met their obligation. Supra, Ansonia.

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Old 02-19-2020, 02:27 PM
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I can't pass judgement without hearing the post office's side. The requirement is not that the employer comply with an employee's reasonable request so long as there is no undue hardship - it is possible that the employer offered their own reasonable accommodation and the employee refused it, in which case the employer has met their obligation. Supra, Ansonia.

~Max
Yeah, I'm wondering what the defense is going to be, since this otherwise seems like a slam dunk for Groff. It seems likely that there's something we don't know that casts his claim in a different light, but maybe it's just one PO manager being an unreasonable dick?
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:39 PM
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Yeah, I'm wondering what the defense is going to be, since this otherwise seems like a slam dunk for Groff. It seems likely that there's something we don't know that casts his claim in a different light, but maybe it's just one PO manager being an unreasonable dick?
In Trans World Airlines, there was a union-negotiated "seniority system" in place that prevented the employer from swapping shifts to accommodate a junior employee's sabbath day without consent of the other (senior) employee. No consent could be found and it was held that violating that seniority system amounts to an undue burden. Perhaps there is something similar with postal workers? I don't know.

The other two alternatives struck down in Trans World were 1) paying other workers overtime to cover for the employee requesting sabbath day off, and 2) keeping the employee on with a four day work week and letting the business suffer for lack of personnel.

~Max
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:41 PM
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As a Christian, that's idiotic. The dude knew when he signed on that the job included Sundays. Even if he was told they'd TRY to be flexible, that implies they will not always be. It's not his right to avoid ever working on a Sunday. I worked food service and other menial jobs for years. I worked Sundays very, very often. If he wants them so bad, he can find a job that ISN'T the friggin' post office. Good grief.
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:41 PM
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Groff's "reasonable accommodation" is to demand that other people with the same religion as him be required to work on Sundays in his place. You don't seriously think that the Post Office has enough non-Christian employees to handle the entire Sunday workload, do you?
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:44 PM
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I'm kind of curious: which Christian denomination has as one of its tenets that followers cannot work on Sunday?
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:44 PM
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I think a lot would depend on the requirements when he took the job. I don't believe Sunday delivery was a thing, or if he had a agreement not to work Sundays, either one would get that point. Then if the PO could reasonably accommodate his request and not have him work on Sundays, I think he has a good shot at it.
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:47 PM
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Groff's "reasonable accommodation" is to demand that other people with the same religion as him be required to work on Sundays in his place. You don't seriously think that the Post Office has enough non-Christian employees to handle the entire Sunday workload, do you?
If a coworker volunteered to swap shifts I think the USPS would be way in the wrong. But I also think the AP would have published a statement like this,

"Mr. Groff's coworker Joe Schmoe hates Mondays, and together they asked USPS to swap Joe's Monday shift with Gerald's Sunday shift. USPS refused this accommodation, and offered no comment or explanation."

~Max
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Old 02-19-2020, 03:00 PM
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Sundays have got to be a pretty slow day at the post office.
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Old 02-19-2020, 03:27 PM
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I imagine every Christian there would love to have Sundays off as well.
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Old 02-19-2020, 03:32 PM
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I'm kind of curious: which Christian denomination has as one of its tenets that followers cannot work on Sunday?
Christianity in general regards Sunday (as a Sabbath) to be a day to be devoted to worship, and refrain from servile work. How rigorously this is followed depends on the denomination. As I recall, growing up Roman Catholic, you were supposed to refrain from work on Sunday if you could. However, if you had a job that required you to work on Sunday that wasn't a problem.
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Old 02-19-2020, 03:38 PM
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There's places like where I work, which run 24/7. If you can't work a particular day (and we do have people who put Sunday off limits due to church) then that's OK... but certain positions require that you be available certain days and times. If you aren't available those days and times you can't hold those positions although numerous other positions are open to you.

If you get religion and say "nope, can't work the Sabbath" then if that is incompatible with your present position you may have to switch to another. Likewise, if you're not available at night then you can not be 3rd shift manager (as an example).

As noted - if the employer attempted an accommodation and it was refused then the employer may well be in the clear. Funny how we almost always here only one side of these things, hmm?
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Old 02-19-2020, 03:52 PM
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Sundays have got to be a pretty slow day at the post office.
I believe the USPS in many areas have recently added Sunday package delivery to accommodate the surge in online shopping. That’s one area that sets them apart from UPS and FedEx ground.
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Old 02-19-2020, 05:22 PM
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Seems like an easy win for the plaintiff, to me. Isn't it pretty much settled law that businesses have to make reasonable accommodations for religious requirements? There's six other days of the week Groff could be assigned hours. Why was it so hard to accommodate this request?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for religious reasons so long as it doesn't cause undue hardship on the employer. As Max S has pointed out, when it comes to religious accommodations the definition of undue hardship is anything beyond a de minimus expense constitutes an undue hardship. When most of us think of workplace accommodations we think of disabilities. The burden for an employer to accommodate a religious accommodation is actually much less than it is to accommodate a disability.

It may not be an easy win for the plaintiff. If the USPS shows that they made a good faith effort to ensure their staffing needs on Sundays were met without requiring the plaintiff to work they have a pretty good case.
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Old 02-19-2020, 05:53 PM
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I'm slightly surprised that there aren't already accepted principles that cover this - what do Jewish people do in these sort of circumstances? Jewish practise is generally a lot stricter than Christian when it comes to not working one day of the week.

I'm also pretty surprised this Post Office is doing anything very much on a Sunday - I've certainly never had a Sunday delivery of anything.

Also, the increasing practise of more and more jobs erasing the distinctions between weekdays and weekend days, and treating all days as alike, is quite bad for ordinary working people. It's good to be pushing back against this. Frankly I think every working person should have as a right the right to blank out one day a week that they never work (whichever day that might happen to be) and this would be a very positive move for general mental health
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Old 02-19-2020, 06:09 PM
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I'm slightly surprised that there aren't already accepted principles that cover this - what do Jewish people do in these sort of circumstances? Jewish practise is generally a lot stricter than Christian when it comes to not working one day of the week.
De minimis undue burden is the "accepted" principle. Read an opinion from the man who drafted the relevant section of law, Will the Supreme Court Finally Protect the Right Not to Work on the Sabbath? on what Wikipedia tells me is a Jewish-American magazine called Tablet Magazine.

I believe Patterson v. Walgreens, Co. is on the supreme docket this term.

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Old 02-19-2020, 06:16 PM
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I'm also pretty surprised this Post Office is doing anything very much on a Sunday - I've certainly never had a Sunday delivery of anything.
The post office's sorting and distribution centers are all about as busy on Sunday as on any other day; the mail moves from point to point even though they're not doing much last-mile delivery (Amazon packages excepted).

For example, priority mail sent from the Miami area is supposed to be delivered in Chicago in two days. If all goes according to schedule, the first night, it is collected from the origin post office or collection box to a regional center there, postmarked, and sent on the network center for transit to the airport; the next day it should be in Illinois and being sorted for delivery to a regional center and then that night to the local post office for delivery the following day. It doesn't much matter to the post office whether you mailed it Monday for Wednesday delivery or mailed it Saturday for Monday delivery; the regional and network centers will be keeping the same schedule.
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Old 02-19-2020, 06:18 PM
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I'm also pretty surprised this Post Office is doing anything very much on a Sunday - I've certainly never had a Sunday delivery of anything.
I get packages through USPS on Sunday all the time and it's been going on a few years - it might only be packages from Amazon. But even if they didn't deliver anything on Sundays and therefore carriers and clerks didn't work Sunday , that doesn't mean that nobody works on Sunday - mail still moves on the weekends
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Old 02-19-2020, 06:22 PM
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Also, the increasing practise of more and more jobs erasing the distinctions between weekdays and weekend days, and treating all days as alike, is quite bad for ordinary working people. It's good to be pushing back against this. Frankly I think every working person should have as a right the right to blank out one day a week that they never work (whichever day that might happen to be) and this would be a very positive move for general mental health
The disappearance of the formally recognized weekend can be directly attributed, in part, to the disappearance of unions from the American labor scene. I mean, why do you think the concept even exists in the first place?

But frankly, that's a whole other ball of wax than Mr. Groff's lawsuit is talking about.
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Old 02-19-2020, 06:32 PM
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I hear Chik-Fil-A is hiring...
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Old 02-19-2020, 07:05 PM
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I'm slightly surprised that there aren't already accepted principles that cover this - what do Jewish people do in these sort of circumstances? Jewish practise is generally a lot stricter than Christian when it comes to not working one day of the week.
Not all Jewish people are equally observant.

For some professions - those involving life saving work, for example - the usual Sabbath work prohibitions might be lifted.

And, lastly - highly observant Jews take jobs where taking off for the Sabbath isn't an issue.
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Old 02-19-2020, 07:23 PM
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Groff's "reasonable accommodation" is to demand that other people with the same religion as him be required to work on Sundays in his place. You don't seriously think that the Post Office has enough non-Christian employees to handle the entire Sunday workload, do you?
I'm not sure if you're sarcastic. A great many people in the United States are non-Christian. Lancaster, Pennsylvania is not some 90-100% Christian region either.
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Old 02-19-2020, 07:37 PM
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Frankly I think every working person should have as a right the right to blank out one day a week that they never work (whichever day that might happen to be) and this would be a very positive move for general mental health
You think it would be a good idea to let some teacher, for example, declare that they will not work on Mondays and some other teachers in the same school to declare Tuesdays, Wednesdays, ... to be free for them. I can see chaos ensuing.
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Old 02-20-2020, 01:13 PM
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Seems like an easy win for the plaintiff, to me. Isn't it pretty much settled law that businesses have to make reasonable accommodations for religious requirements? There's six other days of the week Groff could be assigned hours. Why was it so hard to accommodate this request?
Yeah, I agree. I don't understand the push back against this guy in this thread. They aren't making people work seven days a week, right? Then that means someone is going to be off on Sunday. Why can't that be Groff? It seems like a very minimal accommodation. And even if 90% of his coworkers are Christians, the vast majority of Christians have no qualms about working on Sunday, so that's no excuse.

I wouldn't care so much if it were a private employer (though I'd still think they're wrong not to accommodate if at all possible) but the government really isn't supposed to be picking which religious beliefs are acceptable for their employees to follow. Seems like there should be an extra layer of scrutiny there.
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Old 02-20-2020, 01:26 PM
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The push back is this is all based on what he's claimed and the other side of the story hasn't been told.

He's claimed he's requested holiday, Saturday, and evening hours other people don't want to work. Well and good.

But do those exist?

And what offer did the USPS make to accommodate him?

Did they make an accommodating offer he rejected? If so, what was it, and why did he reject it?

As for USPS picking and choosing religions - they aren't. They have a 7 day work week. We don't know what accommodations they have offered. We only have one person's claim that an acceptable arrangement was not made. Would a reasonable third party judge the situation unacceptable? Who knows?
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Old 02-20-2020, 02:41 PM
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I wonder what caused the Post Office after 7 years to say, nah, you can't ask for Sundays off.
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Old 02-20-2020, 03:20 PM
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I mean, why do you think the concept even exists in the first place?
I think Jews make an excellent case for inventing the weekend. But unions can claim credit for the two-day weekend.
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Old 02-20-2020, 03:25 PM
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Christian sues US Postal Service over Sunday work shifts


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The push back is this is all based on what he's claimed and the other side of the story hasn't been told.



He's claimed he's requested holiday, Saturday, and evening hours other people don't want to work. Well and good.



But do those exist?



And what offer did the USPS make to accommodate him?



Did they make an accommodating offer he rejected? If so, what was it, and why did he reject it?



As for USPS picking and choosing religions - they aren't. They have a 7 day work week. We don't know what accommodations they have offered. We only have one person's claim that an acceptable arrangement was not made. Would a reasonable third party judge the situation unacceptable? Who knows?


And because we are only hearing one side, we don’t know why they won’t accommodate him , or even that they didn’t offer him an accommodation that he rejected.

I’m looking at his complaint,amended complaint and USPS’s answer to the amended complaint. ( will try to provide a link later). He was hired in 2012. Sunday delivery started March 2017. From March 2017 until Dec 2017, a coworker took the Sunday shifts assigned to Groff. In December , she was injured and could no longer do so.


Groff continued to be scheduled for Sundays and received suspensions on 1/16/18 and 10/9/18. It appears that up until Jan 2019, Groff was scheduled to work on at least some Sundays. There was no disciplinary action between 10/18 and when resigned in January 2019, which he claims was a constructive discharge. Groff filed a complaint with the EEO which dismissed his claims.


The USPS answer says that they attempted to accommodate him - he was free to trade or give away Sunday shifts and his supervisors would find coverage when possible.

Reading between the lines , it appears that the only accommodation Groff would have found acceptable was to ensure that he was not scheduled to work on Sundays. ( He apparently either wasn’t scheduled or found coverage for the time period between suspensions and between the second suspension and his resignation) My guess is that the collective bargaining agreement with the union precluded this as they often do - perhaps employees were required to bid on days off in order of seniority, or the contract required the Sunday schedule to rotate.

Last edited by doreen; 02-20-2020 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 02-20-2020, 05:01 PM
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I work for the post office and the job is 24/7.

Now the person in question COULD try and get a job as a carrier or work in retail and those jobs have sundays off.
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Old 02-20-2020, 05:46 PM
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So their counter is they offered some accommodation, even if this did not meet the expectations of Groff (or some of the posters here).

If they acted as claimed, does it pass legal muster?
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Old 02-20-2020, 07:33 PM
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So their counter is they offered some accommodation, even if this did not meet the expectations of Groff (or some of the posters here).

If they acted as claimed, does it pass legal muster?
It's not that simple. Mr. Groff ostensibly asked for Sundays off, for religious purposes. If the employer's offer did not accommodate that, it doesn't count as a reasonable accommodation.

That doesn't necessarily mean the employer loses the case - USPS is off the hook if nobody can come up with an arrangement that accommodates Mr. Groff's religious needs without imposing a minimal undue hardship on USPS.

~Max
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Old 02-20-2020, 08:41 PM
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Yes, most Christians don't demand Sundays off. But Goff is saying that, in his view, that is something required of Christians. So unless he can make the case that the Post Office can fill their staffing needs with 35% of their workforce, his requested accommodation is one that, by his own claim, violates the religion of employees.
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Old 02-20-2020, 09:37 PM
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Yes, most Christians don't demand Sundays off. But Goff is saying that, in his view, that is something required of Christians. So unless he can make the case that the Post Office can fill their staffing needs with 35% of their workforce, his requested accommodation is one that, by his own claim, violates the religion of employees.
No, Goff is only saying that it is something that is required of him as a Christian. He doesn't say that other Christians need to agree with him and that they, too, should be taking Sundays off.

The number of employees who actually do seek Sundays off on religious grounds is a relevant factor in determining what is a "reasonable accommodation" to make to them since, obviously, it might be reasonable to expect an employer to offer to a handful of people something which could not reasonably be expected to be offered to the vast bulk of the workforce.
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Old 02-20-2020, 10:14 PM
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Is Goff in an at-will State?
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Old 02-20-2020, 10:24 PM
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Yes, most Christians don't demand Sundays off. But Goff is saying that, in his view, that is something required of Christians. So unless he can make the case that the Post Office can fill their staffing needs with 35% of their workforce, his requested accommodation is one that, by his own claim, violates the religion of employees.
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No, Goff is only saying that it is something that is required of him as a Christian.
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Is Goff in an at-will State?
[pedant]

Groff is the correct spelling.

[/pedant]

He is likely a member of the APWU, by the way.
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Old 02-21-2020, 12:21 AM
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Originally Posted by DrCube View Post
Yeah, I agree. I don't understand the push back against this guy in this thread. They aren't making people work seven days a week, right? Then that means someone is going to be off on Sunday. Why can't that be Groff? It seems like a very minimal accommodation. And even if 90% of his coworkers are Christians, the vast majority of Christians have no qualms about working on Sunday, so that's no excuse.

I wouldn't care so much if it were a private employer (though I'd still think they're wrong not to accommodate if at all possible) but the government really isn't supposed to be picking which religious beliefs are acceptable for their employees to follow. Seems like there should be an extra layer of scrutiny there.
To play devil's advocate, a win for Groff allows every other Christian employee (or even non-Christian employees) to claim to have been "reborn" and found a belief that violating the Sabbath is a terrible thing.

Sunday is a pretty popular day to want to have off even in secular circles (most other family/kids and friends are off and you can spend time with them, football games, lazy afternoon naps, etc.)
  #44  
Old 02-21-2020, 04:21 AM
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Originally Posted by DrCube View Post
Yeah, I agree. I don't understand the push back against this guy in this thread. They aren't making people work seven days a week, right? Then that means someone is going to be off on Sunday. Why can't that be Groff? It seems like a very minimal accommodation. And even if 90% of his coworkers are Christians, the vast majority of Christians have no qualms about working on Sunday, so that's no excuse.
It might be a religious thing for Mr. Groff but for almost everyone else there's a more important reason.

Folks don't want to work on Sunday because it's the weekend, not because of church.
Consequently, even Jesus has to work Sundays until he accrues enough seniority.

Last edited by I Love Me, Vol. I; 02-21-2020 at 04:22 AM.
  #45  
Old 02-21-2020, 07:13 AM
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Originally Posted by China Guy View Post
Is Goff in an at-will State?
It doesn't really matter in this case. Religious beliefs are protected at the federal level and this case is about whether or not Groff's accommodation request was reasonable.
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  #46  
Old 02-21-2020, 07:32 AM
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Who says sabbaths must be a single day? I hereby declare my sabbath to be Monday thru Friday, every week!
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  #47  
Old 02-21-2020, 02:46 PM
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Postal workers are paid extra for working sundays so I doubt many would push for this.
  #48  
Old 02-22-2020, 01:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
Why should only Sunday sabbaths get protection? Why not all sabbaths?

And, hey - he presumably was informed that working Sunday was required for the job when he applied. If his religious requirements changed such that he could no longer meet the job requirements then he should get a different job. Or a different religion.

No one is forcing him to work on Sundays. Nor should he be able to force an employer that needs people to work on Sundays to employ him. There are many workplaces that will never ask him to work on a Sunday, perhaps he should apply to one.

The federal lawsuit claims Groff worked “flexibly” to accommodate his convictions by offering to pick up holiday, evening and Saturday hours that others did not want to work.

Groff, who worked for the Postal Service for seven years, said the agency began enforcing a no-exceptions Sunday policy on him and “needlessly disciplined him,” according to a statement released by his defense Monday. The disciplinary methods included suspensions as long as two weeks.

That would make it seam he worked for some years without having to work Sunday and the PO was ok with it. But at some point wanted to change the working days.
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  #49  
Old 02-22-2020, 05:08 AM
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Also makes me wonder if Groff was being eased out of the business due to some other issue. That's quite a common way of getting rid of an unwanted employee - bring up attendance issues, or even make maintaining good attendance near impossible.

Again, we're only hearing one side of the story here.
  #50  
Old 02-22-2020, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Snnipe 70E View Post
That would make it seam he worked for some years without having to work Sunday and the PO was ok with it.
From above, according to the USPS, there had been a co-worker willing to take the Sunday shifts Groff was assigned. The USPS hadn't been making exceptions either for or against but was allowing the shift swaps. That co-worker could no longer pick up those Sunday shifts, presumably (?) no other co-worker was willing to do the same, and the current mess is the result.
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