The U.S. Supreme Court has accepted its first workplace
religious freedom case in nearly 30 years, one that Seventh-day Adventists and
other faith groups had urged it to review.
The case, Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission vs. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., involves
a Muslim woman who was denied a job because her hijab, or head covering,
violated corporate policy. Adventist Church religious liberty leaders feared
that a ruling by a lower court eroded workplace religious freedom rights,
including those of Adventists who choose not to work on Sabbath.
The Adventist Church in August filed an amicus, or
“friend-of-the-court,” brief together with by seven other faith groups that
urged the Supreme Court to hear the case.
At issue is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which
obligates employers to take steps to “reasonably accommodate” a prospective
employee’s “religious observance or practice.”
“We’re hopeful the Supreme Court will take a friendly view
toward Title VII and realize its importance, specifically the broad protection
that the law intended,” said Todd McFarland, associate general counsel for the
Adventist world church.
A date for oral argument has yet to be scheduled.
Thursday’s decision is the first time since 1986 that the
Supreme Court has accepted a workplace religious freedom case. In that case, Ansonia Board of Education
v. Philbrook, the court clarified an employer’s obligation to make
reasonable accommodation for employees requesting time off to observe religious
Aug. 28, 2014: “Adventist Church Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Hijab Case”