Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Commission of Florida, No. 85-993

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRENNAN
PartiesPaula A. HOBBIE, Appellant, v. UNEMPLOYMENT APPEALS COMMISSION OF FLORIDA and Lawton & Company
Docket NumberNo. 85-993
Decision Date25 February 1987

480 U.S. 136
107 S.Ct. 1046
94 L.Ed.2d 190
Paula A. HOBBIE, Appellant,

v.

UNEMPLOYMENT APPEALS COMMISSION OF FLORIDA and Lawton & Company.

No. 85-993.
Argued Dec. 10, 1986.
Decided Feb. 25, 1987.
Syllabus

After 21/2 years, appellant informed her employer that she was joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church and that, for religious reasons, she would no longer be able to work at the employer's jewelry store on her Sabbath. When she refused to work scheduled shifts on Friday evenings and Saturdays, she was discharged. She then filed a claim for unemployment compensation, which was denied by a claims examiner for "misconduct connected with [her] work" under the applicable Florida statute, and the Unemployment Appeals Commission (Appeals Commission) affirmed. The Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal affirmed the Appeals Commission's order.

Held: Florida's refusal to award unemployment compensation benefits to appellant violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 83 S.Ct. 1790, 10 L.Ed.2d 965; Thomas v. Review Board of Indiana Employment Security Div., 450 U.S. 707, 101 S.Ct. 1425, 67 L.Ed.2d 624. Pp. 139-146.

(a) When a State denies receipt of a benefit because of conduct mandated by religious belief, thereby putting substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs, that denial must be subjected to strict scrutiny and can be justified only by proof of a compelling state interest. The Appeals Commission did not seriously contend that its infringement could withstand strict scrutiny, and there is no merit to its contention that justification for the infringement should be determined under the less rigorous standard of demonstrating that the challenged requirement for governmental benefits was a reasonable means of promoting a legitimate public interest. Pp. 141-142

(b) The denial of benefits to appellant cannot be justified on the ground that, under Florida law, appellant was not completely ineligible for benefits but was disqualified only for a limited time. Pp. 142-143.

(c) Nor can the denial of benefits be upheld on the ground that the conflict between work and religious belief was not caused by the employer's alteration of the conditions of employment after appellant was hired, but was caused, instead, by appellant's conversion during the course of her employment. Pp. 143-144

(d) There is no merit to the Appeals Commission's argument that awarding benefits to appellant would violate the Establishment Clause

Page 137

of the First Amendment. The accommodation of religious practices here would not entangle the State in an unlawful fostering of religion. Pp. 144-145.

475 So.2d 711 (Fla.App.1986), reversed.

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

Walter E. Carson, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

John D. Maher, Tallahassee, Fla., for respondent.

Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Appellant's employer discharged her when she refused to work certain scheduled hours because of sincerely held religious convictions adopted after beginning employment. The question to be decided is whether Florida's denial of unemployment compensation benefits to appellant violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution, as applied to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.1

Page 138

I

Lawton and Company (Lawton), a Florida jeweler, hired appellant Paula Hobbie in October 1981. She was employed by Lawton for 21/2 years, first as a trainee and then as assistant manager of a retail jewelry store. In April 1984, Hobbie informed her immediate supervisor that she was to be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church and that, for religious reasons, she would no longer be able to work on her Sabbath, from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.2 The supervisor devised an arrangement with Hobbie: she agreed to work evenings and Sundays, and he agreed to substitute for her whenever she was scheduled to work on a Friday evening or a Saturday.

This arrangement continued until the general manager of Lawton learned of it in June 1984. At that time, after a meeting with Hobbie and her minister, the general manager informed appellant that she could either work her scheduled shifts or submit her resignation to the company. When Hobbie refused to do either, Lawton discharged her.

On June 4, 1984, appellant filed a claim for unemployment compensation with the Florida Department of Labor and Employment Security. Under Florida law, unemployment compensation benefits are available to persons who become "unemployed through no fault of their own." Fla.Stat. § 443.021 (1985). Lawton contested the payment of benefits on the ground that Hobbie was "disqualified for benefits" because she had been discharged for "misconduct connected with [her] work." § 443.101(1)(a).3

Page 139

A claims examiner for the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation denied Hobbie's claim for benefits, and she appealed that determination. Following a hearing before a referee, the Unemployment Appeals Commission (Appeals Commission) affirmed the denial of benefits, agreeing that Hobbie's refusal to work scheduled shifts constituted "misconduct connected with [her] work." App. 3.

Hobbie challenged the Appeals Commission's order in the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal. On September 10, 1985, that court summarily affirmed the Appeals Commission.4 We postponed jurisdiction, 475 U.S. 1117, 106 S.Ct. 1633, 90 L.Ed.2d 179 (1985), and we now reverse.5

II

Under our precedents, the Appeals Commission's disqualification of appellant from receipt of benefits violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, applicable to the

Page 140

States through the Fourteenth Amendment.6 Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 83 S.Ct. 1790, 10 L.Ed.2d 965 (1963); Thomas v. Review Bd. of Indiana Employment Security Div., 450 U.S. 707, 101 S.Ct. 1425, 67 L.Ed.2d 624 (1981). In Sherbert we considered South Carolina's denial of unemployment compensation benefits to a Sabbatarian who, like Hobbie, refused to work on Saturdays. The Court held that the State's disqualification of Sherbert

"force[d] her to choose between following the precepts of her religion and forfeiting benefits, on the one hand, and abandoning one of the precepts of her religion in order to accept work, on the other hand. Governmental imposition of such a choice puts the same kind of burden upon the free exercise of religion as would a fine imposed against [her] for her Saturday worship." 374 U.S., at 404, 83 S.Ct. at 1794.

We concluded that the State had imposed a burden upon Sherbert's free exercise rights that had not been justified by a compelling state interest.

In Thomas, too, the Court held that a State's denial of unemployment benefits unlawfully burdened an employee's right to free exercise of religion. Thomas, a Jehovah's Witness, held religious beliefs that forbade his participation in the production of armaments. He was forced to leave his job when the employer closed his department and transferred him to a division that fabricated turrets for tanks. Indiana then denied Thomas unemployment compensation benefits. The Court found that the employee had been "put to a choice between fidelity to religious belief or cessation of work" and that the coercive impact of the forfeiture of benefits in this situation was undeniable:

" 'Not only is it apparent that appellant's declared ineligibility for benefits derives solely from the practice of

Page 141

y(3)27 religion, but the pressure upon [the employee] to forego that practice is unmistakable.' " Thomas, supra, at 717, 101 S.Ct., at 1431 (quoting Sherbert, supra, 374 U.S., at 404, 83 S.Ct., at 1794).

We see no meaningful distinction among the situations of Sherbert, Thomas, and Hobbie. We again affirm, as stated in Thomas:

"Where the state conditions receipt of an important benefit upon conduct proscribed by a religious faith, or where it denies such a benefit because of conduct mandated by religious belief, thereby putting substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs, a burden upon religion exists. While the compulsion may be indirect, the infringement upon free exercise is nonetheless substantial." 450 U.S. at 717-718, 101 S.Ct., at 1431-1432 (emphasis added).

Both Sherbert and Thomas held that such infringements must be subjected to strict scrutiny and could be justified only by proof by the State of a compelling interest. The Appeals Commission does not seriously contend that its denial of benefits can withstand strict scrutiny; rather it urges that we hold that its justification should be determined under the less rigorous standard articulated in Chief Justice Burger's opinion in Bowen v. Roy, 476 U.S. 693, 707-708, 106 S.Ct. 2147, 2156, 90 L.Ed.2d 735 (1986): "[T]he Government meets its burden when it demonstrates that a challenged requirement for governmental benefits, neutral and uniform in its application, is a reasonable means of promoting a legitimate public interest." Five Justices expressly rejected this argument in Roy. See id., at 715-716, 106 S.Ct. at 2160 (BLACKMUN, J., concurring in part); id., at 728, 106 S.Ct., at 2167 (O'CONNOR, J., joined by BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., concurring in part and dissenting in part); id., at 733, 106 S.Ct., at 2169 (WHITE, J., dissenting). We reject the argument again today. As Justice O'CONNOR pointed out in Roy, "[s]uch a test has no basis in precedent and relegates a serious First Amendment value to the barest level of minimal scrutiny that the Equal Protection

Page 142

Clause already provides." Id., at 727, 106 S.Ct. at 2166. See also ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
339 practice notes
  • Fulton v. City of Phila., No. 19-123
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 17, 2021
    ...exercise of religion.'" Id., at 717 (quoting Yoder, 406 U. S., at 220). Subsequently, in Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Fla., 480 U. S. 136, 141 (1987), the Court found that a state rule that was "'neutral and uniform in its application'" nevertheless violated the Free Exercise Cl......
  • Church of Scientology of Ga., Inc. v. City of Sandy Springs, Ga., No. 1:10–CV–00082–AT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • February 10, 2012
    ...substantial burden hurdle is high and that determining its existence is fact intensive. See, e.g., Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n, 480 U.S. 136, 141, 107 S.Ct. 1046, 94 L.Ed.2d 190 (1987) (finding burden when government puts “substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior......
  • Vernon v. City of Los Angeles, No. 92-55473
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 23, 1994
    ...of Employment Sec., 489 U.S. 829, 832, 109 S.Ct. 1514, 1516-17, 103 L.Ed.2d 914 (1989); Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Florida, 480 U.S. 136, 141, 107 S.Ct. 1046, 1049, 94 L.Ed.2d 190 The free exercise provision of the California Constitution also requires that plaintiffs demonstr......
  • Legacy Church, Inc. v. Kunkel, No. CIV 20-0327 JB\SCY
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • April 17, 2020
    ...observers against unequal treatment,’ " Lukumi, 508 U.S. at 542, 113 S.Ct. 2217 (quoting Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Fla., 480 U.S. 136, 148, 107 S.Ct. 1046, 94 L.Ed.2d 190 (1987) (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment)). Impermissible "inequality results when a legislature decid......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
337 cases
  • Fulton v. City of Phila., No. 19-123
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 17, 2021
    ...exercise of religion.'" Id., at 717 (quoting Yoder, 406 U. S., at 220). Subsequently, in Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Fla., 480 U. S. 136, 141 (1987), the Court found that a state rule that was "'neutral and uniform in its application'" nevertheless violated the Free Exercise Cl......
  • Church of Scientology of Ga., Inc. v. City of Sandy Springs, Ga., No. 1:10–CV–00082–AT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • February 10, 2012
    ...substantial burden hurdle is high and that determining its existence is fact intensive. See, e.g., Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n, 480 U.S. 136, 141, 107 S.Ct. 1046, 94 L.Ed.2d 190 (1987) (finding burden when government puts “substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior......
  • Vernon v. City of Los Angeles, No. 92-55473
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • June 23, 1994
    ...of Employment Sec., 489 U.S. 829, 832, 109 S.Ct. 1514, 1516-17, 103 L.Ed.2d 914 (1989); Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Florida, 480 U.S. 136, 141, 107 S.Ct. 1046, 1049, 94 L.Ed.2d 190 The free exercise provision of the California Constitution also requires that plaintiffs demonstr......
  • Legacy Church, Inc. v. Kunkel, No. CIV 20-0327 JB\SCY
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • April 17, 2020
    ...observers against unequal treatment,’ " Lukumi, 508 U.S. at 542, 113 S.Ct. 2217 (quoting Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Fla., 480 U.S. 136, 148, 107 S.Ct. 1046, 94 L.Ed.2d 190 (1987) (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment)). Impermissible "inequality results when a legislature decid......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • ESTABLISHMENT'S POLITICAL PRIORITY TO FREE EXERCISE.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 97 Nbr. 2, January 2022
    • January 1, 2022
    ...Univ. v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983); Goldman, 475 U.S. 503; Bowen, 476 U.S. 693; Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Fla., 480 U.S. 136 (1987); Lyng v. Nw. Indian Cemetery Protective Ass'n, 485 U.S. 439 (1988); Frazee v. 111. Dep't of Emp. Sec, 489 U.S. 829 (1989). Walz v. Tax ......
  • Religious Freedom and Unemployment Compensation Benefits
    • United States
    • Public Personnel Management Nbr. 24-3, September 1995
    • September 1, 1995
    ...5.,andKohn, John P. (1986).PersonnelManagement,ManagingHumanRe-sources.NewYork:HarperandRow.Hobbiev.UnemploymentAppealsCommissionofFlorida,480 U.S. 136 (1987).Lemonv.Kurtzman,403 U.S. 602 (1971).Religious Freedom Act.Houseof Representatives, United States Congress, H.R. 4040 (1991).Religiou......

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