Ansonia Board of Education v. Philbrook

Decision Date17 November 1986
Docket NumberNo. 85-495,85-495
Citation479 U.S. 60,93 L.Ed.2d 305,107 S.Ct. 367
PartiesANSONIA BOARD OF EDUCATION, et al., Petitioners v. Ronald PHILBROOK et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
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 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." 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, 103 S.Ct. 1478, 75 L.Ed.2d 403. 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.

Thomas N. Sullivan, Hartford, Conn., for petitioners.

Robert F. McWeeny, Hartford, Conn., for respondent, Ansonia Federation of Teachers, in support of the petitioners, by special Leave of Court.

David N. Rosen, New Haven, Conn., for respondents.

Sol. Gen. Charles Fried, for the U.S. and E.E.O.C., as amici curiae, in support of the respondents, by special Leave of Court.

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 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 beliefs 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 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 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 addi- tional 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...

To continue reading

Request your trial
389 cases
  • Lemmons v. Georgetown University Hosp.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • May 4, 2006
    ...an employer has allegedly failed to accommodate an employee's religious beliefs under Title VII, Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 67, 107 S.Ct. 367, 93 L.Ed.2d 305 (1986), other Circuits have stated that plaintiffs claiming religious discrimination under Section 2000e(j) must......
  • S.B. by and through M.B. v. Lee
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Tennessee
    • October 12, 2021
    ...provide a specific accommodation if another reasonable accommodation is instead provided" (citing Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook , 479 U.S. 60, 68–69, 107 S.Ct. 367, 93 L.Ed.2d 305 (1986) )), with McPherson , 119 F.3d at 460 ("Not surprisingly, most of the law that has been made in ADA c......
  • U.S. Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. Greyhound Lines, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • August 12, 2021
    ...in "more than a de minimis cost" to the employer.’ " Firestone , 515 F.3d at 312 (quoting Ansonia Bd. Of Educ. v. Philbrook , 479 U.S. 60, 67, 107 S.Ct. 367, 93 L.Ed.2d 305 (1986) (internal citation omitted)) (alterations and emphasis in Firestone ). In short, proving the reasonableness of ......
  • Turco v. Hoechst Celanese Chemical Group, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas
    • December 5, 1995
    ...may desire...." Williams v. City of Charlotte, 899 F.Supp. 1484, 1488 (W.D.N.C.1995) (citing Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook 479 U.S. 60, 68, 107 S.Ct. 367, 371, 93 L.Ed.2d 305 (1986) (Title VII religion case)). Nor does the Act require "affirmative action in favor of individuals with dis......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 firm's commentaries
  • Am I My Brother's Keeper: Religious Accommodations And Vaccine Mandates Under Title VII
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • October 27, 2021
    ...a university's religious exemptions for vaccine mandates for the university's students) 4 Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 66, 107 S. Ct. 367, 371, 93 L. Ed. 2d 305 The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice sho......
  • Am I My Brother's Keeper: Religious Accommodations And Vaccine Mandates Under Title VII
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • October 27, 2021
    ...a university's religious exemptions for vaccine mandates for the university's students) 4 Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 66, 107 S. Ct. 367, 371, 93 L. Ed. 2d 305 The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice sho......
  • Dear Littler: How Do We Handle Requests For Time Off For Religious Observance?
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • October 25, 2022
    ...to avoid working on some, but not all, [religious observance days].") 4. Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 6. Ct 0, 70 -71, 107 S. Ct. 367 5. 432 U.S. 63, 97 S. 2264 (1977). It bears mentioning that some states have their own EEO laws that apply a more rigorous 6. Id. at 83. 7. Id......
16 books & journal articles
  • Employment
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books California Causes of Action
    • March 31, 2022
    ...is offered, it is unnecessary to show that other alternatives would cause an undue hardship. Ansonia Board of Education v. Philbrook , 479 U.S. 60, 68 (1986). Undue hardship is only at issue if the employer contends that he is unable to offer any reasonable accommodation. Soldinger v. North......
  • Religious discrimination
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Federal Employment Jury Instructions - Volume I
    • April 30, 2014
    ...the employer claims that it is unable to offer any reasonable accommodation without such hardship.” Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook , 479 U.S. 60, 68-9 (1986); accord, Hudson v. Western Airlines, Inc. , 851 F.2d 261, 266 (9th Cir. 1988). Moreover, any reasonable accommodation that will re......
  • Deposing & examining lay witnesses
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Deposing & Examining Employment Witnesses
    • March 31, 2022
    ...or (2) that it could not reasonably accommodate plaintiff’s religious needs without undue hardship. See Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook, 479 U.S. 60, 68 (1986). CASE NO TE Refusal to Hire In EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., 575 U.S. ___ (2015), the Supreme Court held that Title V......
  • Employer Responses
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Employment Evidence
    • April 1, 2022
    ...otherwise-neutral policies to give way to the need for an accommodation.” 135 S.Ct. at 2034. In Ansonia Bd. of Educ. v. Philbrook , 479 U.S. 60, 107 S.Ct. 367 (1986), the Court addressed the application of a collective bargaining agreement provision allowing three days leave for religious r......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT