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TWA v. Hardison - 432 U.S. 63, 97 S. Ct. 2264 (1977)

Rule:

Section 703(a)(1) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-2(a)(1), makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate against an employee or a prospective employee on the basis of his or her religion. A guideline of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 29 C.F.R. § 1605.1(b) (1968), requires, as the Act itself now does, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e (j), that an employer, short of "undue hardship," make "reasonable accommodations" to the religious needs of its employees.

Facts:

Hardison was employed by Trans World Airlines (TWA) in a department that operated 24 hours a day throughout the year in connection with an airplane maintenance and overhaul base.Hardison was subject to a seniority system in a collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) between TWA and the aerospace workers union, under which the most senior employees have first choice for job and shift assignments as they become available, and the most junior employees are required to work when enough employees to work at a particular time or in a particular job to fill TWA's needs cannot be found. Because Hardison's religious beliefs prohibit him from working on Saturdays, attempts were made to accommodate him, and these were temporarily successful mainly because on his job at the time he had sufficient seniority regularly to observe Saturday as his Sabbath. But when he sought, and was transferred to, another job where he was asked to work Saturdays and where he had low seniority, TWA could no longer accommodate his requests. TWA agreed to permit the union to seek a change of work assignments, but the union was not willing to violate the seniority system. After TWA rejected a proposal that Hardison work only four days a week, no accommodation could be reached, and Hardison was discharged for refusing to work on Saturdays. Hardison brought an action for injunctive relief against TWA and the union, claiming that his discharge constituted religious discrimination in violation of § 703(a)(1) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Hardison also made certain other charges against the union. The District Court ruled in favor of both TWA and the union, holding that the union's duty to accommodate Hardison's religious beliefs did not require it to ignore the seniority system, and that TWA had satisfied its "reasonable accommodations" obligation. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment for the union but reversed the judgment for TWA, holding that TWA had not satisfied its duty to accommodate Hardison's religious needs under the EEOC guidelines. Both the union and TWA sought certiorari review.  

Issue:

Did TWA and the aerospace union failed to make "reasonable accommodations" to the religious needs of its employees?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the judgment of the appeals court, holding that TWA, which had made reasonable efforts to accommodate Hardison's religious needs, did not violate Title VII, and each of the Court of Appeals' suggested alternatives would have been an undue hardship within the meaning of the statute as construed by the EEOC guidelines.

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