Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Commission of Florida

In Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Commission of Florida, the Supreme Court reversed the commission’s refusal to provide unemployment benefits to a woman who was discharged for refusing to work on her Sabbath. After working for her employer for two and a half years, Hobbie joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church and informed her employer that she could no longer work on Saturdays due to her newly adopted religious beliefs. Her employer terminated her, and she filed an application for unemployment benefits, which the state denied. Hobbie then appealed her denial on First Amendment grounds. In deciding the case, the Court noted its previous recognition in both Sherbert v. Verner and Thomas v. Review Board that a state’s refusal to provide benefits because of conduct mandated by a religious belief puts pressure on an adherent to modify his or her behavior; thus, such refusal can only be justified by a compelling government interest. The state argued that Hobbie’s termination was appropriate because it was unfair for her to adopt religious beliefs inconsistent with her existing employment and her refusal to work on her new Sabbath amounted to misconduct. The Court rejected the state’s assertion, finding that the Free Exercise Clause prevents a state from treating a religious convert differently than a person whose belief precedes her employment. As the Court found no compelling interest that justified the state’s denial of benefits, the Court reversed the decision of the unemployment commission.

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