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Beadle v.City of Tampa
Supreme Court of the United States (1994)

No. 94-1705

In The
Supreme Court of the United States
October Term, 1994

ASTON A. BEADLE
Petitioner,
v.
CITY OF TAMPA, FLORIDA, ET AL.
Respondents.


On Petition for a Writ of Certiorari
to the United States Court of Appeals
for the Eleventh Circuit


BRIEF OF AGUDATH ISRAEL OF AMERICA
AS AMICUS CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITION
FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI

INTEREST OF THE AMICUS CURIAE

Agudath Israel of America, founded in 1922, is a national grassroots Orthodox Jewish movement. As an advocate for Orthodox Jewish interests, Agudath Israel plays an active role in helping promote and safeguard the rights of observant Jews and other religious minorities.

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One of the most important of those rights is the right to seek and hold employment without discrimination on the basis of religious identity or practice -- a right embodied in federal statutory law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., and directly implicated in this case. Sadly, as Agudath Israel can attest through its constituents' personal experiences, religious discrimination in the workplace -- especially discrimination against Sabbath observers -- continues to be a serious problem in our society; and it has become increasingly evident, as the decision below illustrates, that Title VII has failed to realize its promise as a legal bulwark against such discrimination.

In Agudath Israel's view, a large part of the reason for that failure is this Court's holding in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63 (1977). Under Title VII, an employer is obliged to make reasonable accommodation to an employee's "religion," defined to include "all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief," unless the employer shows that such accommodation would cause "undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business." 42 U.S.C. 2000e(j). The statute provides no guidance to help determine whether any given hardship is "undue." Such guidance was provided, instead, by Hardison; the Court held that an employer can demonstrate "undue hardship", and thereby avoid Title VII's mandate of reasonable accommodation of religion, simply by showing that such accommodation would involve "more than a de minimis cost". 432 U.S. at 84.

Dissenting in Hardison, Justice Marshall characterized the decision as "a fatal blow to all efforts under Title VII

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to accommodate work requirements to religious practices." 432 U.S. at 86 (Marshall, J., dissenting). His words, unfortunately, have been proven largely prophetic. As one Circuit Court has noted, "a standard less difficult to satisfy than the 'de minimis' standard for demonstrating undue hardship expressed in Hardison is difficult to imagine." Yott v. North American Rockwell Corp., 602 F.2d 904, 909 (9th Cir. 1979). In a growing number of cases, lower courts applying Hardison -- including this one -- have diluted the protections of Title VII further still, by allowing employers to adduce amorphous non-economic burdens as an "undue hardship" on their business. The net result: a stubbornly persistent pattern of discrimination against Sabbath observers in the workforce.

Agudath Israel believes that, contrary to Hardison, hardship ought not be deemed "undue" for purposes of Title VII unless it entails significant difficulty or expense. Indeed, as further developed herein, Agudath Israel believes that Hardison's de minimis "more than a de minimis cost" standard raises serious constitutional free exercise questions that merit the Court's careful consideration. This case, which so starkly illustrates the weakness of existing Title VII protections for Sabbath observers in the workforce, affords the Court an opportunity to undertake such consideration.

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