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Justices Seek Government View on Religious Accommodation at Work

March 18, 2019, 1:45 PM

The U.S. Supreme Court March 18 asked the Solicitor General to wade into a workplace dispute between Walgreen Co. and the Seventh-day Adventist Church in a case that could expand what employers must do to accommodate the religious practices of workers of all faiths.

The church represents Darrell Patterson, a Walgreens training instructor who was fired for failing to conduct a two-hour session on the Sabbath, which stretches from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday for Seventh-day Adventists.

A federal appeals court threw out Patterson’s discrimination lawsuit, saying the company made a reasonable attempt to meet his needs.

If taken up by the Supreme Court, the case would allow the justices to consider whether an accommodation is reasonable if it didn’t resolve the conflict between a worker’s job responsibilities and religious practices.

Nine circuit courts have weighed in on the issue and have split three ways, the church said. Four say accommodations that don’t resolve the work-religion conflict are unreasonable, three say they’re reasonable, and two say the reasonableness of incomplete accommodations is a question for a jury.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a Protestant denomination with approximately 20 million members worldwide, including 1.2 million members in the U.S. and Canada. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim groups filed briefs with the court backing the Adventists.

The case is Patterson v. Walgreen, U.S., 18-349, Solicitor General invited to file brief 3/18/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Iafolla in Washington at riafolla@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com