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Estate of Thornton v. Caldor, Inc.

Supreme Court of the United States
472 U.S. 703 (1985)


Thornton (plaintiff) commenced employment with Caldor, Inc. (defendant) at a time when state laws prohibited retail operations on Sundays. The state repealed its Sunday laws and Caldor began to open its stores on Sundays. Caldor required Thornton to work every third or fourth Sunday. Thornton was a Presbyterian who observed Sunday as his Sabbath day. When Thornton refused to continue working Sundays, Caldor demoted him from a management position to a clerical position. Thornton resigned and filed a grievance with the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration. Thornton claimed that his demotion violated a state law that prohibited employers from requiring employees to work on their chosen Sabbath day and prohibited termination for refusal to work on the chosen Sabbath day. The State Board order Caldor to reinstate Thornton. Appeals to the state courts ensued and the state supreme court ruled the Sabbath law invalid. Thornton’s estate petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Burger, C.J.)

Concurrence (O’Connor, J.)

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