WASHINGTON (Nov. 16)
The U.S. Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will hear another case on the issue of how far an employer must go to accommodate the religious observances of an employe. The case involves Larry Hardison who was fired by Trans-World Airlines in 1969 for refusing to work on Saturdays. Hardison belongs to the World Wide Church of God, a Christian sect that observes the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday in the manner of Orthodox Jews.
On Nov. 2, the Supreme Court split 4-4 in an almost identical case involving a member of the same church who had sued the Parker Seal Co. of Berea, Ky. The split decision had the effect of affirming a lower court decision in favor of the complainant but was inconclusive as a legal precedent. Nevertheless, it was hailed by the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) which had filed a brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of the Orthodox Jewish community.
But the question remains how the country’s highest court interprets the language of a 1972 amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act that requires employers to make “reasonable accommodation” to the religious practices of workers as long as their business is not subjected to undue hardship.
In the Hardison case, a U.S. district court ruled that TWA had complied with the law in attempts to resolve Hardison’s problem. The U.S. Court of Appeals disagreed and suggested that a company as large as TWA could have resolved the conflict in a manner satisfactory to the complainant. The Supreme Court is expected to render a decision before it recesses next summer.