In a 5 to 4 ruling the U.S. Supreme Court made a hugely influential decision to allow employers to opt out of paying for employees to have access to certain contraceptives. The case was originally pursued by craft-retailer Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. along with other religiously affiliated businesses, to seek exemption from stipulations established in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that require businesses to provide certain types of contraceptive in their business healthcare coverage offerings. The group contested that some of the mandated contraceptives, alleging that the forced distribution of such products would compel the business owners to act in a manner contrary to their convictions.
The main argument surrounded a statute called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which prohibits the government from burdening a person’s exercise of religion unless the burden represents the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling interest. Legal counsel for the businesses contested that as lawful entities, their religious freedom should be protected from government interference.
In their verdict, the justices determined that “protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga and Mardel protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those FRFR companies.” The impact of this decision extends far beyond slightly adjusting the ACA requirements. The case sets a new precedent in expanding the rights of business entities and the protections they are afforded under the law. While the court decision does very narrowly define which type of family owned, for-profit operations can exercise this religious freedom, many critics are concerned that the decision will open a window for many other businesses to seek exemption from other government legislation on religious grounds.
The ruling will most assuredly face challenges and increased criticism, but only time will reveal the extent to which businesses can utilize these newly yielded rights. Because not all businesses will be afforded such exemptions establishing the right health insurance program for your employees remains more critical now than ever. Without a well-planned employee benefits program your operation could face costly fees and even legal challenges. At Sinclair Risk and Financial Management, our Employee Benefits specialists works with employers to design, structure, and administer a complete benefits plan that is conducive to their needs and desires. For more information about any of our Wallingford employee benefits planning services of business insurance offerings give us a call at (877) 602-2305.