For-Profit Corporations Entitled to Religious Exemption from Contraceptive Mandate

by Akerman LLP
Contact

On June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court decided the closely watched case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. The main question before the court was whether for-profit companies may assert religious grounds to avoid providing contraception coverage as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. The Court concluded that for-profit companies are entitled to assert a religious exemption to the contraceptive mandate. A copy of the court opinion can be found here.

Contraception Coverage Mandate

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. No. 111-148 (Mar. 23, 2010), requires employers with at least 50 full-time-equivalent employees to provide those employees with certain health care benefits or else face a financial penalty. Among the required health benefits is women's preventive care, including contraception coverage. Churches and other houses of worship are already exempt from providing contraception if they object on religious grounds, and non-profits are provided special accommodations as well. See 45 CFR 147.131; 78 Fed. Reg. 39870 (July 2, 2013) (requiring insurers of such non-profits to provide contraception coverage to the non-profits' employees paid by certain federal funds, not paid by the non-profits' premiums). However, for-profit employers were not afforded this accommodation, and so several brought suit.

Do Corporations Exercise Religion?

Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a privately-owned, for-profit company, along with its owners, argued it was exempt based on the Free Exercise (of religion) clause of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 ("RFRA"), 42 USC 2000bb et. seq. The RFRA states that "government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" unless "in furtherance of a compelling government interest" and the government uses the least restrictive means of achieving that interest. 42 USC 2000bb-1.

The government argued that the RFRA does not grant free-exercise rights to for-profit corporations and the company owners' exercise of religion is not burdened if their companies are required to provide contraception coverage. Even if a substantial burden did exist, the government argued that the government interest in public health and equal access to women's health care is sufficiently compelling to overcome a religious exemption.

The Contraceptive Mandates Violates the RFRA

The Supreme Court concluded that the RFRA does extend protection to for-profit corporations. The Court also ruled that the contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion under RFRA. Finally, the Court ruled the mandate is not the least restrictive means of furthering the government's interest in allowing access to contraception, particularly because the government could extend the same accommodation it has already provided to non-profits, allowing the non-profits to avoid paying for contraception while offering employees the same benefit paid for using special federal funds.

The decision is explicitly made a narrow one, concerning only the contraceptive mandate. The ruling does not allow employers to assert exemptions to other coverage requirements, such as immunizations. Additionally, because the Court decided the matter based on the RFRA, the Court declined to reach the parties' First Amendment arguments.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Akerman LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Akerman LLP
Contact
more
less

Akerman LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.