In a recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, it was held that the religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive mandate applied to all businesses with a religious or moral objection, not merely churches or other religious orders. This ruling could have a significant impact on healthcare benefits for employees around the country and could have other implications in related fields of law. This case is part of a growing trend by the court that has granted ever greater religious freedoms to employers, often at the expense of their employees.
By law, the ACA requires all healthcare plans offered by employers to cover contraceptive medication as part of its plan. However, there is an exception to this rule for churches and other religious organizations, who can legally object to such a plan on religious or moral grounds. The primary question before the court was whether this exception also applied to businesses or other organizations claiming a religious objection that did not have an explicitly religious purpose.
According to the Supreme Court, the answer is “yes.” In a 7-2 decision, the Court ruled in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania that for-profit entities not founded for an explicitly religious purpose may still take advantage of the religious objection rule. This ruling is the latest in a series of cases, starting with the infamous Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., that has expanded the ability of employers to exploit religious objection rules to ignore labor and employment regulations.
Critics fear that the same logic will soon be applied to other laws, such as the Civil Rights Act or Americans with Disabilities Act, which also have provisions that exclude religious organizations from their requirements. Were that reasoning to be expanded, it could effectively defang many anti-discrimination laws, with employers citing religious or moral objections to protect themselves from the consequences of their actions. For now, however, the rationale in this case remains narrow, applying only to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate.
If you have gotten into a legal dispute with your employer, it is important that you seek the guidance of an experienced New York employment lawyer who can protect your legal rights and advocate on your behalf. Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 39 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. To schedule an appointment with New York City employment lawyer Steven Mitchell Sack, call (917) 371-8000.