When an employee’s sincere religious observances or practices conflict with workplace requirements, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) requires the employer to provide a reasonable accommodation unless doing so would impose an “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” In 1977, the United States Supreme Court appeared to indicate in Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison that an accommodation creates an undue hardship when it imposes “more than a de minimis cost.” In June 2023, in Groff v. DeJoy, a unanimous Court reevaluated its precedent and announced a new rule: to deny a religious accommodation, an employer must show that the burden of accommodation “is substantial in the overall context of an employer’s business.”


Title VII prohibits employers with at least 15 employees from discriminating against employees and applicants on the basis of religion, as well as race, color, sex, and national origin. Religious discrimination includes the failure to reasonably accommodate an employee or job applicant’s religious observance or practice, unless the employer can show that accommodation imposes an “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.”

An accommodation is a change in the employer’s policies, practices, or the work environment to allow an employee to engage in a religious practice or observance. In Hardison, the Supreme Court held that the standard for assessing whether accommodating a religious employee’s request is an “undue hardship” is whether it would require an employer “to bear more than a de minimis cost.”

Groff v. DeJoy

In Groff, the Supreme Court considered whether it should confirm the “de minimis test” for undue hardship as stated in Hardison or use a new test. In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court created a new standard by which to review requests for religious accommodations. The Court held that an “undue hardship” exists when a burden is substantial in the overall context of an employer’s business, noting that this is a fact-specific inquiry. The Court defined a “hardship” as, at a minimum, “something hard to bear” and more severe than a “mere burden.”

Thus, an employer cannot avoid Title VII liability simply by showing that an accommodation would impose some sort of additional costs. The modifier “undue” means that the requisite burden must rise to an “excessive” or “unjustifiable” level. Interpreting “undue hardship” in this way is “something very different from a burden that is merely more than ‘de minimis.’”