479 U.S. 60 (1986), 85-495, Ansonia Board of Education v. Philbrook

Docket NºNo. 85-495
Citation479 U.S. 60, 107 S.Ct. 367, 93 L.Ed.2d 305, 55 U.S.L.W. 4019
Party NameAnsonia Board of Education v. Philbrook
Case DateNovember 17, 1986
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 60

479 U.S. 60 (1986)

107 S.Ct. 367, 93 L.Ed.2d 305, 55 U.S.L.W. 4019

Ansonia Board of Education

v.

Philbrook

No. 85-495

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 17, 1986

Argued Oct. 14, 1986

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE SECOND CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondent Philbrook (hereafter respondent), a teacher employed by petitioner school board (Board), is a member of a church whose tenets require members to refrain from secular employment during designated holy days, a practice that has caused respondent to miss approximately six schooldays each year. Under pertinent collective bargaining agreements between the Board and the teachers' union, teachers were granted three days' annual leave for observance of religious holidays, but could not use for religious observance any accumulated sick leave, three days of which were otherwise available for "necessary personal business." Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreements, respondent used the three days granted for religious holidays each year, and then either took unauthorized unpaid leave, scheduled required hospital visits on church holy days, or worked on those days. Respondent repeatedly asked the Board either to adopt the policy of allowing use of the three days of personal business leave for religious observance or, in the alternative, to allow him to pay the cost of a substitute and receive full pay for additional days off for religious [107 S.Ct. 368] observances. The Board consistently rejected both proposals, and respondent ultimately filed suit in Federal District Court, alleging that the Board had violated the prohibition against religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, particularly the Board's obligation under § 701(j) of the Act to

reasonably accommodate to an employee's . . . religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business.

Page 61

After trial, the District Court concluded that respondent had failed to prove a case of religious discrimination because he had not been placed by the Board in a position of violating his religion or losing his job. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that respondent had established a prima facie case of discrimination. The court then assumed that the Board's leave policy constituted a reasonable accommodation to respondent's belief, but held that where the employer and the employee each propose a reasonable accommodation, Title VII requires the employer to accept the employee's proposal unless that accommodation causes undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business. The case was remanded for consideration of the hardship that would result from respondent's suggestions.

Held:

1. This case presents no issue that requires, for purposes of Title VII religious accommodation claims, the establishing of a proof-scheme delineating a plaintiff's prima facie case and the shifting production burdens. The ultimate Title VII question of discrimination vel non was directly before the District Court, because the Board failed to persuade the court to dismiss the action for want of a prima facie case, and the case was fully tried on the merits. Thus, the issue whether respondent made out a prima facie case was no longer relevant. Cf. United States Postal Service Board of Governors v. Aikens, 460 U.S. 711. Pp. 67-68.

2. Neither the terms nor the legislative history of § 701(j) supports the Court of Appeals' conclusion that an employer's accommodation obligation includes a duty to accept the employee's proposal unless that accommodation causes undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business. An employer has met its obligation under § 701(j) when it demonstrates that it has offered a reasonable accommodation to the employee. The employer need not further show that each of the employee's alternative accommodations would result in undue hardship. The extent of undue hardship on the employer's business is at issue only where the employer claims that it is unable to offer any reasonable accommodation without such hardship. Pp. 68-69.

3. Because both of the courts below applied an erroneous view of the law, neither explicitly considered the question whether the Board's leave policy constituted a reasonable accommodation of respondent's religious beliefs. There are insufficient factual findings as to the manner in which the collective bargaining agreements have been interpreted in order for this Court to make that judgment initially. On remand, the District Court should make the necessary findings as to past and existing practice in the administration of the collective bargaining agreements. Pp. 70-71.

757 F.2d 476, affirmed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, O'CONNOR, and SCALIA, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., post, p. 71, and STEVENS, J., post, p. 75, filed opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Page 62

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner Ansonia Board of Education has employed respondent Ronald Philbrook since 1962 to teach high school business and typing classes in Ansonia, Connecticut. In 1968, Philbrook was baptized into the Worldwide Church of God. The tenets of the church require members to refrain from secular employment during designated holy days, a

Page 63

practice that has caused respondent to miss approximately six schooldays each year. We are asked to determine whether the employer's efforts to adjust respondent's work schedule in light of his belief fulfill its obligation under § 701(j) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 86 Stat. 103, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j), to "reasonably accommodate to an employee's . . . religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business."1

Since the 1967-1968 school year, the school board's collective bargaining agreements with the Ansonia Federation of Teachers have granted to each teacher 18 days of leave per year for illness, cumulative to 150 and later to 180 days. Accumulated leave may be used for purposes other than illness as specified in the agreement. A teacher may accordingly use five days' leave for a death in the immediate family, one day for attendance at a wedding, three days per year for attendance as an official delegate to a national veterans organization, and the like. See, e.g., App. 98-99. With the exception of the agreement covering the 1967-1968 school year, each contract has specifically provided three

Page 64

days' annual leave for observance of mandatory religious holidays, as defined in the contract. Unlike other categories for which leave is permitted, absences for religious holidays are not charged against the teacher's annual or accumulated leave.

The school board has also agreed that teachers may use up to three days of accumulated leave each school year for "necessary personal business." Recent contracts limited permissible personal leave to those uses not otherwise specified in the contract. This limitation dictated, for example, that an employee who wanted more than three leave days to attend the convention of a national veterans organization could not use personal leave to gain extra days for that purpose. Likewise, an employee already absent three days for mandatory religious observances could not later use personal leave for "[a]ny religious activity," id. at 80, 83, 86, 89, 92, or "[a]ny religious observance." Id. at 96, 100. Since the 1978-1979 school year, teachers have been allowed to take one of the three personal days without prior approval; use of the remaining two days requires advance approval by the school principal.

The limitations on the use of personal business leave spawned this litigation. Until the 1976-1977 year, Philbrook observed mandatory holy days by using the three days granted in the contract and then taking unauthorized leave. His pay was reduced [107 S.Ct. 370] accordingly.2 In 1976, however, respondent stopped taking unauthorized leave for religious reasons, and began scheduling required hospital visits on church holy days. He also worked on several holy days. Dissatisfied with this arrangement, Philbrook repeatedly asked the school board to adopt one of two alternatives. His preferred alternative would allow use of personal business leave for religious observance, effectively giving him three additional

Page 65

days of paid leave for that purpose. Short of this arrangement, respondent suggested that he pay the cost of a substitute and receive full pay for additional days off for religious observances.3 Petitioner has consistently rejected both proposals.

In 1973, Philbrook filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the school board and the Ansonia Federation of Teachers. After exhausting the available administrative avenues, he filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, alleging that the prohibition on the use of "necessary personal business" leave for religious observance violated §§ 703(a)(1), (2) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2(a)(1), (2), and seeking both damages and injunctive relief.4

After a 2-day trial, the District Court concluded that Philbrook had failed to prove a case of religious discrimination because he had not been placed by the school board in a position of violating his religion or losing his job.

The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed and remanded for further proceedings. It held that a prima facie case of discrimination is established when an employee shows that

"(1) he or she has a bona fide religious belief that conflicts with an employment requirement; (2) he or she informed the employer of this belief; (3) he or she was disciplined for failure to comply with...

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391 practice notes
  • Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty
    • United States
    • Federal Register October 26, 2017
    • 26 Octubre 2017
    ...there is no obligation to provide an employee with his or her preferred reasonable accommodation, see Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 68 (1986), an employer may justify a refusal to accommodate only by showing that ``an undue hardship on its business would in fact result fro......
  • 990 N.E.2d 251 (Ill.App. 1 Dist. 2013), 1-12-1220, Robinson v. The Village of Oak Park
    • United States
    • Illinois United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • 16 Abril 2013
    ...the conflict between employment requirements and religious practices" and beliefs. Ansonia Board of Education v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 70, 107 S.Ct. 367, 93 L.Ed.2d 305 (1986); Anderson v. U.S.F. Logistics (IMC), Inc., 274 F.3d 470, 475 (7th Cir.2001). The defendant was under no obli......
  • 161 Misc.2d 248, Brown v. Daytop Village, Inc.
    • United States
    • 31 Enero 1994
    ...belief in ... the free exercise context" (Philbrook v. Ansonia Board of Education, 757 F.2d 476, 481 [2d Cir., 1985], aff'd, 479 U.S. 60, 107 S.Ct. 367, 93 L.Ed.2d 305 [1986]; see, also, Benjamin v. Coughlin, 708 F.Supp. 570 [S.D.N.Y., 1989], aff'd, 905 F.2d 571 (2nd Cir.1990), cert. d......
  • 311 F.Supp.2d 190 (D.Mass. 2004), Civ. A. 02-30138, Cloutier v. Costco Wholesale
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • 30 Marzo 2004
    ...guidelines provide no guidance in determining the extent of an employer's accommodation obligation. Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 69, 107 S.Ct. 367, 93 L.Ed.2d 305 (1986); Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63, 75, 97 S.Ct. 2264, 53 L.Ed.2d 113 (1977) ("......
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356 cases
  • 990 N.E.2d 251 (Ill.App. 1 Dist. 2013), 1-12-1220, Robinson v. The Village of Oak Park
    • United States
    • Illinois United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • 16 Abril 2013
    ...the conflict between employment requirements and religious practices" and beliefs. Ansonia Board of Education v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 70, 107 S.Ct. 367, 93 L.Ed.2d 305 (1986); Anderson v. U.S.F. Logistics (IMC), Inc., 274 F.3d 470, 475 (7th Cir.2001). The defendant was under no obli......
  • 161 Misc.2d 248, Brown v. Daytop Village, Inc.
    • United States
    • 31 Enero 1994
    ...belief in ... the free exercise context" (Philbrook v. Ansonia Board of Education, 757 F.2d 476, 481 [2d Cir., 1985], aff'd, 479 U.S. 60, 107 S.Ct. 367, 93 L.Ed.2d 305 [1986]; see, also, Benjamin v. Coughlin, 708 F.Supp. 570 [S.D.N.Y., 1989], aff'd, 905 F.2d 571 (2nd Cir.1990), cert. d......
  • 311 F.Supp.2d 190 (D.Mass. 2004), Civ. A. 02-30138, Cloutier v. Costco Wholesale
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • 30 Marzo 2004
    ...guidelines provide no guidance in determining the extent of an employer's accommodation obligation. Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 69, 107 S.Ct. 367, 93 L.Ed.2d 305 (1986); Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63, 75, 97 S.Ct. 2264, 53 L.Ed.2d 113 (1977) ("......
  • 827 F.2d 1081 (6th Cir. 1987), 85-6063, Smith v. Pyro Min. Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • 1 Septiembre 1987
    ...employer is sufficient to meet its accommodation obligation." Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, --- U.S. ----, 107 S.Ct. 367, 372, 93 L.Ed.2d 305 (1986). "[W]here the employer has already reasonably accommodated the employee's religious needs, the statutory inquiry is at an end. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 firm's commentaries
22 books & journal articles
2 provisions
  • Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty
    • United States
    • Federal Register October 26, 2017
    • 26 Octubre 2017
    ...there is no obligation to provide an employee with his or her preferred reasonable accommodation, see Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 68 (1986), an employer may justify a refusal to accommodate only by showing that ``an undue hardship on its business would in fact result fro......
  • Implementing Legal Requirements Regarding the Equal Opportunity Clause's Religious Exemption
    • United States
    • Federal Contract Compliance Programs Office
    • Invalid date
    ...granted, No. 18-525 (U.S. Jan. 11, 2019); Philbrook v. Ansonia Bd. of Educ., 757 F.2d 476, 481-82 (2d Cir. 1985), aff'd on other grounds, 479 U.S. 60 (1986); Redmond v. GAF Corp., 574 F.2d 897, 901 n.12 (7th Cir. 1978). In such cases, a court must ``vigilantly separate the issue of sincerit......