Donald Thorton refused to work on Sunday, and now the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether his small act will affect businesses throughout the country.
Thorton, a shoe-department manager for a Caldor Inc. store in Connecticut, refused to work one Sunday a month or to transfer to a Massachusetts store that closed on Sundays. When Caldor tried to demote him, Thorton resigned.
The state Board of Mediation and Arbitration ruled that Thorton's demotion violated a law that prohibits Connecticut companies from forcing employees to work on their Sabbath days. Although Thorton has since died, Caldor took the case to the Connecticut Supreme Court, which upheld the company's claim that the law represents an unconstitutional establishment of religion and is in conflict with less stringent federal provisions.
Henry Cohn, a lawyer in the Connecticut attorney general's office, says the Sabbath law isn't unconstitutional and is similar to federal laws -- upheld by the Supreme Court -- that allow conscientious objectors to avoid the draft.
Many other states have some variation of the Connecticut statute. If Caldor prevails before the high court, retailers and manufacturers in states with such laws might find it easier to stay open seven days a week.