Ansonia Board of Education v. Philbrook

PETITIONER: Ansonia Board of Education
RESPONDENT: Philbrook
LOCATION: Craig, Colorado

DOCKET NO.: 85-495
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 479 US 60 (1986)
ARGUED: Oct 14, 1986
DECIDED: Nov 17, 1986

ADVOCATES:
Charles Fried - for the United States and EEOC, as amici curiae, in support of respondents
David N. Rosen - for the respondents
Robert F. McWeeny - for respondent Ansonia Federation of Teachers in support of petitioners
Thomas N. Sullivan - for the petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Ansonia Board of Education v. Philbrook

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 14, 1986 in Ansonia Board of Education v. Philbrook

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear arguments next in Ansonia Board of Education against Ronald Philbrook.

You may proceed when you're ready, Mr. Sullivan.

Thomas N. Sullivan:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice.

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case raises two issues with regard to the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibit discrimination by an employer against an employee because of his religion.

The first issue is whether an employee who needs to be absent from work to observe his religion, and who is provided a combination of paid leave and unpaid leave for that purpose, proves a prima facie case of discrimination under Title VII, based upon the employer's refusal to compensate him for all of his absence for religious observance.

The second question posed is whether an employer who has implemented a reasonable accommodation of an employee's religion, is nevertheless required to accept the accommodation the employee prefers, absent the showing of undue hardship and the conduct of the employer's business.

Now, the essential facts in this case are as follows:

The respondent, Ronald Philbrook, is a public high school teacher, employed by the petitioner, Ansonia School Board, as a business teacher.

Since 1968, Philbrook has been a member of the Worldwide Church of God, and as such, he is required by his faith to absent himself for approximately six days a year from his employment to observe religious holy days.

Under the governing collective bargaining agreement, all of the school board's teachers, including Philbrook, are provided three days annual paid leave for religious observance.

Teachers are also provided under the agreement with 18 days of annual leave for other reasons, such as illness.

And these are confined to specific numbers of days per occurrence per reason.

Teachers are also provided, in addition to the three days for religious observance and the 18 days of annual leave, with three days of annual leave for necessary personal business.

Under the specific provisions of the bargaining agreement, these days may not be used for any reason for which leave is otherwise provided under the bargaining agreement.

And they may be used only for reasons which require a teacher's absence from work.

Antonin Scalia:

Is that so during the entire period here?

Thomas N. Sullivan:

No, it wasn't.

Your Honor, early on in the bargaining relationship between the union and the school board, the leave provisions were more lenient in that respect.

Antonin Scalia:

Between, what was it--

Thomas N. Sullivan:

'67 and '68.

Antonin Scalia:

--'67 and '69, they could use those three days, as far as we know, for anything they wanted?

Thomas N. Sullivan:

That's correct.

Antonin Scalia:

But nonetheless, Philbrook was not allowed to use it for religious reasons.

Thomas N. Sullivan:

The record is not clear on that.

The evidence in terms of Philbrook's absences for religion relate back to the 1970-71 school year, which you can see set forth in the appendix to our brief.

The record is not clear in this case as to how he was treated prior to that time.

It's our understanding that he was allowed, up until the 1970-71 school year, all of the leave he needed, with pay, for religious observance.

So that the change came when the parties to the bargaining agreement negotiated specific restrictions on the use of personal leave.

Now, because the bargaining agreement--