Hobby Lobby Ruling a Potential Slippery Slope

By July 10, 2014

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a landmark decision in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Inc. case last week, asserting that certain employers with religious objections can deny paying for contraception under the Affordable Care Act.
Michael Landen, a partner at Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, shares his thoughts with the Daily Business Review on the ruling, and raises important questions about the full implications of the decision.
He argues the decision is a slippery slope, opening the door for “closely-held” businesses to become involved in private medical issues such as fertility, birth control procedures (such as vasectomy or tubal ligation), psychiatric care and blood transfusions. If a private employer’s religious beliefs can dictate the health care its employers receive, all kinds of health care and medical procedures, some possibly life-saving, may be at risk.

For example:

  • If a woman uses birth control pills for another medical reason besides contraception, can an employer refuse to cover them?
  • How deep can an employer delve into its employees’ personal medical history to glean this information?
  • How will the decision affect women who have children out of wedlock, which may be inconsistent with an employer’s religious beliefs? Can the employer refuse to pay for prenatal care or refuse to hire that person at all?
  • Could the holding in Hobby Lobby potentially impact not just the Affordable Care Act but also other federal laws such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?

The full implications and breadth of the Supreme Court’s holding has yet to be explored and will most likely fuel debate as the highest court’s ruling is felt nationwide. For these reasons, employers should consult with an employment attorney to better understand the impact of this decision.
To view the full commentary, click here.