ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA Civil No. 74-547.
Adams, Gibbons and Hunter, Circuit Judges.
This appeal poses a difficult question concerning the degree to which Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, requires an employer to accommodate the religious beliefs of its employees.*fn1 Inasmuch as the Supreme Court in Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison*fn2 has provided new guidelines for such inquiry, we vacate the judgment of the district court and remand for reconsideration in light of that case.
Although the fact pattern of this litigation presents many tangles, it is susceptible to a succinct description. Thomas Ward has been an employee of Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corporation, a manufacturer of specialty steel, since 1965. In 1968, he commenced an apprenticeship in the hydraulic and engine repair gang and by 1972 had attained the rank of Class "A" journeyman.*fn3 After achieving this latter position, Ward was assigned to the "twenty-week schedule" at Allegheny's Tandem Mill.
The Tandem Mill is a critical link in Allegheny's operations and must function twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Four Class "A" hydraulic and engine repair journeymen are assigned to the Mill and a journeyman must be on duty at all times. Thus, if a worker who is assigned to the Tandem Mill is absent from a designated shift, Allegheny must procure a substitute journeyman. A twenty-week rotation schedule has been fashioned in order to insure that one person will be present at each shift and that the four journeymen will have two days off each week.*fn4
Allegheny's collective bargaining agreement with the United Steelworkers of America provides the method for filling the four Class "A" journeymen slots at the Tandem Mill. First, volunteers are sought. Then, if they are insufficient volunteers, those journeymen with the least seniority are assigned to the Mill.*fn5
In 1970, Ward began to study the beliefs of the Worldwide Church of God and was ultimately baptized into that faith. One of the principles of the religion is that the Sabbath, which is celebrated from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, is a day of rest on which no work may be done.
When Ward was transferred to the Tandem Mill in July, 1972, a conflict between his religious beliefs and his work schedule arose. This was so since the rotation would often require him to work shifts that coincided, in whole or in part, with his Sabbath. Consequently, Ward refused to work these shifts. At first, and on his own motion, Ward procured substitutes for himself.*fn6 Allegheny, however, instructed him to cease this practice.
Ward's record of absenteeism led to an escalating sequence of disciplinary measures which culminated in a suspension in December, 1972. At the hearing which followed the suspension, Ward was told that Allegheny would not permit him to design a special schedule for working at the Tandem Mill, since such a plan would constitute "reverse discrimination." Allegheny did renew an offer to Ward of a job in the Plant Protection Department as a janitor.*fn7 Under such an arrangement, Ward would not have to work on his Sabbath, although he would be on duty on Sundays. It was made clear to Ward that if he did not accept this offer he would be discharged. Ward took the janitorial position, but simultaneously wrote a letter of protest to the company.
With these events forming the backdrop, Ward filed with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission a complaint against Allegheny and the United Steelworkers.*fn8 The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter and Ward commenced an action in the district court alleging violations of Title VII.
After a non-jury trial, Judge Gourley entered judgment for Ward against Allegheny, but rejected the claim against the Union.*fn9 The district court ruled that Allegheny had failed reasonably to accommodate Ward's religious beliefs,*fn10 and that it had not demonstrated that such accommodation would subject it to undue hardship.*fn11 Judge Gourley also decided that Title VII, as he construed it, did not transgress the establishment clause of the First Amendment. This appeal followed.*fn12 It has been held under advisement ...