Citation. 374 U.S. 398, 83 S.Ct. 1790, 10 L.Ed.2d 965 (1963).
Brief Fact Summary.
Plaintiff challenged Defendant’s finding that her inability to work Saturdays, due to her religion, was not a suitable reason for failing to accept work. Plaintiff argued this violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A state may not constitutionally apply its eligibility provisions for a state program so as to constrain a worker to abandon his religious convictions.
Plaintiff was unable to find employment after being discharged by her employer because she would not work on Saturdays, the Sabbath Day of her faith. She filed a claim for unemployment compensation and was denied. The denial stated that Plaintiff’s Saturday work restriction did not constitute good cause for not finding suitable work. Plaintiff appealed the finding, arguing it violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
Whether disqualification for unemployment benefits due to religious restriction violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
Yes. Disqualification for unemployment benefits due to religious restriction violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
The purpose of the unemployment compensation was to tide people over when work was unavailable. In no proper sense can it be said the state discriminated against Plaintiff. She was denied just as any other claimant would be denied benefits who was no available for work for personal reasons.
Plaintiff at worst would be denied a maximum of 22 weeks of compensation payments. I agree with the court that denial is enough to infringe upon her constitutional rights. But it si also clear to me that in order to reach this conclusion, we must explicitly reject the reasoning of Braunfeld v. Brown.
There is no constitutional right to unemployment benefits on the part of all persons whose religious convictions are the cause of their unemployment. Here, however, the state expressly saves the Sunday worshiper from having to make the kind of choice which we hold infringes the Sabbatarian’s religious liberty.
We must also consider whether some compelling state interest justifies the substantial infringement on Plaintiff’s rights. Here, we cannot assess without the view of the state court. Judgement reversed and remanded.