Estate of Thornton v. Caldor, Inc.

PETITIONER: Estate of Thornton
RESPONDENT: Caldor, Inc.
LOCATION: United States Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 83-1158
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: Connecticut Supreme Court

CITATION: 472 US 703 (1985)
ARGUED: Nov 07, 1984
DECIDED: Jun 26, 1985

ADVOCATES:
Joseph I. Lieberman - Argued the cause for the State of Connecticut
Nathan Lewin - Argued the cause for the petitioners
Paul Gerwitz - Argued the cause for the respondent
Paul Gewirtz - for respondent

Facts of the case

Donald E. Thornton worked as a supervisor in the Caldor department store chain. A devout Presbyterian, Thornton asked to be excused from working Sundays at the company's store in Torrington, Connecticut. The store required its managers to work one of every four Sundays, although rank-and-file employees were exempt under their union contract from Sunday work. In 1979, the company refused to allow Thornton to take off Sundays but offered him a transfer to another store, an hour away in Massachusetts, that was closed on Sundays. When he turned that down, the company said it would demote him from his manager's job and cut his hourly pay from $6.46 to $3.50. Thornton had worked Sundays for nearly eight months before he became aware the store was violating Connecticut law giving employees an absolute right not to work on their chosen Sabbath. He filed a grievance against Caldor with the state board of mediation. The board ruled in his favor. The state supreme court reversed. Thornton's estate (Thornton died in 1982) petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari.

Question

Does the Connecticut statute violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?

Media for Estate of Thornton v. Caldor, Inc.