On Thursday, the Supreme Court subtly transformed the rights of religious workers in America. Under the guise of “clarifying” a nearly 50-year-old precedent, the court held that companies are guilty of discrimination unless they accommodate employees from any policies that burden their religious practices. A company can still defend itself by showing that an accommodation would impose an “undue hardship,” but the court has made it more difficult to meet that standard. The result is likely to be a wave of litigation, with employees, especially those with conservative religious beliefs, suing their employers to block corporate policies that they disagree with. The court’s decision might look like a win for workers’ rights, but it’s really part of a broader strategy within a conservative legal movement that has soured on corporate America. As private actors, for-profit businesses aren’t constrained by constitutional rights like the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion under the First Amendment. In many states, a company can fire you for refusing to complete diversity training, to treat LGBTQ+ coworkers and customers with respect, to get vaccinated, and other conduct that some religious conservatives find intolerable.
James Nelson, Micah J. Schwartzman & Elizabeth Sepper, The Supreme Court Just Dealt a Major Blow to Corporate Mandates, Slate.com (June 30, 2023).