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This is not legal advice, which can only be given by an attorney admitted to practice law in your jurisdiction after hearing all of the facts and circumstances in a particular case.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby opinion and its effect on employees

The Supreme Court has spoken: Corporations are people, my friend. Thus spake the Nine in the long awaited Hobby Lobby opinion, released this morning. It says that closely-held for-profit corporations (those owned by a small number of individuals) can assert religious objections to laws, such as the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employee insurance coverage include access to contraceptives.

The Court said in its opinion, however, the right to assert religious objections is limited: "This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g., for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs. Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice." (from the Syllabus, see pp. 45-49)

Many legal observers are skeptical, however, of this limitation. They express concern that the Hobby Lobby opinion will be used by conservative courts to allow employers to assert religious objections to protecting gay and trans employees from workplace discrimination.

Here is the Supreme Court opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-354_olp1.pdf

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