Standing at a Crossroads: How to Navigate the Intersection of Title VII and RFRA in Federal Employment Religious Discrimination Cases
What do apple pie, religious discrimination, a global pandemic, and federal employees all have in common? They are each part of the landscape surrounding the intersection of Title VII and RFRA. But the landscape is in dire need of rejuvenation pruning. To date, many lower courts have held that Title VII preempts RFRA in cases where a federal employee claims they have suffered religious discrimination in the workplace. This is problematic because, not only was RFRA passed with the intention that it would cover all cases and preempt laws passed before and after it, but more importantly, RFRA’s strict scrutiny standard provides federal employees’ religious beliefs greater protection than Title VII’s reasonable accommodation requirement. Under the current landscape of the law, which is riddled with misunderstanding and misapplication, religious liberties for federal employees are being threatened in unprecedented ways. In order to restore this vital landscape, it is important to begin with an appreciation for the purposes behind both Title VII and RFRA and an understanding of how each statute provides a different level of protection to federal employees who wish to exercise their religion in the workplace. In hopes of starting the necessary pruning process, this Comment proposes that when the federal government passes or publishes a facially neutral law, regulation, or mandate that directly causes a substantial burden on a federal employee’s religious exercise, a federal employee’s RFRA claim should not be preempted by Title VII. Additionally, in cases where the federal employer could present an undue hardship defense under Title VII by claiming that accommodating the employee’s religious belief would require a violation of the federal law, regulation, or mandate, and thus an undue hardship, the federal employee should be permitted to bring a RFRA claim.
Seabolt, Rylee B.
"Standing at a Crossroads: How to Navigate the Intersection of Title VII and RFRA in Federal Employment Religious Discrimination Cases,"
Liberty University Law Review: Vol. 17:
1, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/lu_law_review/vol17/iss1/5