Among the cases on the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court is a case that will have significant repercussions for shomer Shabbos employees for decades to come. The Wall Street based Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce has taken a proactive role in this case, in the effort to ensure that the Highest Court properly accommodates the religious rights of Jews and other religious Americans.
The landmark Patterson v. Walgreen case relates to whether Walgreen’s was justified in its firing of Darrell Patterson for his refusal to work on Saturdays as a result of Seventh-Day Adventist religious observance. At the core of the dispute is whether employers are required to assume more than a “de minimis” (minimal) hardship to accommodate an employee’s religious rights. The decades-long de minimis precedent has harmed the job prospects of countless shomer Shabbos Americans over the years. In this case, the Court will potentially modify that standard for future precedent.
The National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) – a coalition of major Jewish organizations, including the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce – filed an amicus brief on behalf of Mr. Patterson. The brief was written by preeminent constitutional attorney Nat Lewin. Attorneys for both Mr. Patterson and Walgreen’s, among others, alsosubmitted briefs to the Supreme Court arguing their respective positions. The Justices requested that the Solicitor General “express the views of the United States” in this case to the Court.
In response, the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr and Solicitor General Noel Francisco articulating why the Civil Rights Act requires more than a de minimis accommodation of religious observance. The letter particularly focused on the fact that Shabbos observance requires hours of advance time off from work, for travel and preparation, and de minimis does not suffice. It is hoped that the Solicitor General will advocate to the Court on behalf of proper accommodation.
“The ability to properly observe Shabbos is key to the ability of religious Jews to succeed in the American workplace and business world,” says Duvi Honig, Founder and CEO of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce. “The Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce remains committed to fight on behalf of protecting the religious rights and economic prospects of the Jewish community in High Court and any other venue.”