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U.S. Department of Justice Urges Supreme Court to Hear Adventist's Sabbath Accommodation Case

Darrell Patterson photo

Darrell Patterson was fired by Walgreens for refusing to work on the Sabbath. The Supreme Court will consider Patterson’s petition on January 10, 2020. Photo by Dan Weber

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday, December 9, 2019, urged the Supreme Court to hear a case brought by Darrell Patterson, who was fired by Walgreens for refusing to work on the Sabbath. Walgreens knew for years that Darrell Patterson could not work on Saturday, but it stopped accommodating him when a mistake by corporate executives prompted a Saturday training session. The case is an important opportunity for the Supreme Court to clarify the standards for federal civil rights laws protecting religious people — and especially religious minorities like Patterson — from discrimination at work.

Patterson worked at Walgreens for several years with a longstanding agreement that he would not work on the Sabbath. But in 2011, Patterson’s supervisors scheduled him for a last-minute training session on a Saturday to address an error made by Walgreens executives. Though the training could have been completed Friday, Sunday or Monday, Patterson was required to complete the training on Saturday.

He tried unsuccessfully to trade shifts with a coworker, and ultimately completed the training on Monday (ahead of the deadline), but he was still fired for missing his Saturday shift. Patterson sued Walgreens in a Florida federal district court, which ruled in favor of his former employer. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit also sided with the company. In 2018, Patterson filed a petition for the case to be heard by the Supreme Court. 

The Supreme Court will consider Patterson’s petition on January 10, 2020.  If the court agrees to hear the matter, it will issue a ruling by the end of June 2020.

— Todd McFarland is associate general counsel for the Office of General Counsel of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Click here to read background article about the case; click here for previous news on the case.