Hobby Lobby ripples still being measured

by Best Best & Krieger LLP
Contact

Press-Enterprise - August 10, 2014

How can the controversial decision in the Hobby Lobby contraception coverage case impact employers?

The U.S. Supreme Court in June decided the controversial case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. The court ruled that Hobby Lobby, as a privately owned corporation, has the right to refuse to comply with federal regulations that mandate that health insurance offered to employees by employers covered by the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – make specified contraceptives available.

The technical basis for the decision is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), which prohibits the “Government (from) substantially burden(ing) a person’s exercise of religion …” unless the Government “demonstrates that application of the burden to the person — (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

The Supreme Court found that the owners of Hobby Lobby and two other corporations, which also sued, have sincere Christian beliefs that life begins at conception, and that it would violate their religion to facilitate access to contraceptive drugs or devices that operate after that point.

Obamacare regulations mandate that nonexempt employers are generally required to provide coverage for 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including four that may have the effect of preventing an already fertilized egg from developing any further by inhibiting its attachment to the uterus.

The court ruled that these regulations violate the owner’s religious beliefs, and, therefore, cannot be enforced under RFRA.

The court’s decision is very narrow in scope, but opens the door to arguments that other regulatory mandates, such as requirements for insurance coverage for blood transfusions or vaccinations, may also be unenforceable if the private legitimate religious beliefs of the owners of a private corporation lead them to object.

The decision is also important in finding that private corporations have personal rights to religious freedom that must be honored by the government.

The majority of businesses already offered comprehensive contraception coverage before the Affordable Care Act passed and continue to do so.

Employers hoping to qualify for the exemption afforded by this Supreme Court decision must consider the following:

  • The ruling does not apply to publicly traded companies.
  • It is limited to “closely held” corporations, but the court did not define what that meant for this purpose.
  • The business owners must have “sincere” religious beliefs that life begins at conception.
  • Applicants are required to sign and deliver a federal form that certifies their objection.
  • This ruling concerns four methods of contraception. Employers may face an uphill battle if they attempt to restrict other items or services on the basis of religious objection.
  • The decision does not necessarily impact state laws, including mandates concerning contraception coverage, although California does have its own religious exemption regarding contraceptives.
  • Employers cannot illegally discriminate against employees on the ground of religious freedom.

It remains to be seen how insurance companies will respond to requests to carve out parts of the health coverage they provide.

The impacts from this case will continue to cause ripples, but the immediate result is that some privately owned corporations do have the right to refuse to comply with federal regulations mandating that insurance provided by employers covered by Obamacare make certain contraceptives available to employees.

* This article first appeared in The Press-Enterprise on Aug. 10, 2014. Republished with permission.

Written by:

Best Best & Krieger LLP
Contact
more
less

Best Best & Krieger 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.