Hardison was hired by Trans World airlines as a clerk in the Stores Department. The
company ran an overhaul business and the department into which Hardison was hired needed
to remain open 24 hour per day, 365 days a year. The company's seniority system allowed
senior employees to have the first choice in selecting their shifts. Hardison's
acceptance of the tenants of the Worldwide Church of God forced him to refrain from work
from sunset Friday until sunrise on Saturday. When he switched from one building in the
department to another, he was at the bottom of the seniority list and was unable to have
a shift that accommodated his observance of the Sabbath. When he refused to work on
Saturdays Hardison was fired for insubordination. He claimed that his employers had
failed to make reasonable accommodations for his religious beliefs. The Court of
Appeals ruled that TWA did not make adequate efforts to accommodate Hardison because it
could have (1) allowed him to work a four-day week (2) another person could fill in for
Hardison on his Sabbath (3) they could have exempted Hardison from the seniority system
and allowed him an earlier selection of shifts.
The Court decided 7-2 that TWA went far enough in attempting to accommodate Hardison's
Majority Opinion: (Justice White)|
The company attempted to accommodate Hardison, but the union was unwilling to exempt him
from the seniority system. For TWA to unilaterally breach its agreement with the union
would have violated their collective-bargaining agreement. Accommodation does not
require TWA to breach an otherwise valid agreement. Because the company runs a round-
the-clock operation it has special burdens that make it difficult to accommodate its
employees' preferences. To force another employee to work an unwanted weekend shift
would have punished them for not observing a Sabbath. This would have constituted
unequal treatment. There is no question of discriminatory intent on the part of TWA.
"To require TWA to bear more than a de minimus cost in order to give Hardison
Saturdays off is an undue hardship."
This decision focused on the effects on other employees of accommodating Hardison's
religious beliefs. Abandoning the seniority system and forcing another employee to work
on weekends would punish them for not holding religious beliefs that required them to
observe the Sabbath.
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