Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Florida

PETITIONER: Hobbie
RESPONDENT: Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Florida
LOCATION: Florida Department of Labor

DOCKET NO.: 85-993
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 480 US 136 (1987)
ARGUED: Dec 10, 1986
DECIDED: Feb 25, 1987

ADVOCATES:
John D. Maher - on behalf of the appellee
Walter E. Carson - on behalf of the appellant

Facts of the case

Paula Hobbie worked for Lawton and Company, a Florida jewelry shop. She joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church and informed her employer that she could not work from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday since it was her new church's Sabbath day. Lawton soon dismissed her for refusing to work Friday evening and Saturday shifts. Hobbie filed for unemployment compensation with the Florida Department of Labor and Employment Security. Lawton objected to paying benefits, claiming that she did qualify since she had been dismissed "for misconduct connected with her work." The Bureau of Unemployment Compensation agreed and denied her benefits. Hobbie claimed that this violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. She unsuccessfully appealed the decision in the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal.

Question

Did the state of Florida violate the Free Exercise Clause by denying unemployment benefits to an employee who was dismissed for refusing to work certain shifts because of conflicting religious obligations?

Media for Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Florida

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 10, 1986 in Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Florida

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 25, 1987 in Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Comm'n of Florida

William H. Rehnquist:

The opnions of the Court in No. 85-993, Hobbie versus Unemployment Appeals Commission of Florida, No. 85-999 United States against Paradise will be announced by Justice Brennan.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

First of these cases, Hobbie versus Unemployment Commission, is here on appeal from the Florida District Court of Appeals.

Appellant Hobbie was an employee of appellee Lawton and Company a Florida jeweler.

Hobbie's work schedule required that she work on Saturdays, but after she had been working for a while she became a convert to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and informed her employer that she could no longer work on Saturdays, the Sabbath of the Adventist Church.

Appellee, Lawton and Company, there upon discharged her.

Hobbie filed a claim for unemployment compensation with the Florida Department of Labor and Employment Security.

The claim was denied on the ground that the Florida statute disqualified her for benefits because under that statute, her discharge was for misconduct connected with her work.

The Florida Fifth District Court of Appeals summarily affirmed rejecting Hobbie's contention that her disqualification of unemployment compensation, violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

We noted probable jurisdiction and we now reverse.

We hold that reversal is required under our decisions in Sherbert v. Verner decided in 1963, and Thomas v. Review Board decided in 1984.

In Sherbert, we considered South Carolina's denial of unemployment compensation to a Sabbatarian of the Adventist faith, like Hobbie who was used to work on a Saturdays.

We held in the Sherbert that the denial violated Sherbert's constitutional right to free exercise of her religion because of forced down to choose between following a precepts of her religion, and forfeiting benefits and the one hand and the bundling one of the precepts of her religion in order to accept work on the other.

Governmental imposition of such a choice puts the same kind of burden upon the exercise of religion as would a fine imposed against her for her Saturday worship.

Justice Powell and Justice Stevens have filed opinion concurring in the judgment; the Chief Justice has filed a dissenting opinion.