We reported last week about the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. decision holding that a closely-held, non-religious corporation whose owners had religious objections to providing certain forms of birth control could be exempt from the Affordable Care Act mandate requiring coverage for birth control. The decision, although seemingly limited by the majority, may have broad-reaching effects on which portions of the ACA with which a corporate employer must comply. The true expanse of the decision will play out in the coming months as the Supreme Court has ordered review of six similar cases in light of the ruling.
However, employers should be careful before trying to hide behind the Hobby Lobby ruling in other aspects. Justice Alito specifically said that the ruling cannot be used for employers to use a religious belief to discriminate against employees. To quote Justice Alito:
“The principal dissent raises the possibility that discrimination in hiring, for example on the basis of race, might be cloaked as religious practice to escape legal sanction . . . . Our decision today provides no such shield. The Government has a compelling interest in providing an equal opportunity to participate in the workforce without regard to race, and prohibitions on racial discrimination are precisely tailored to achieve that critical goal.”
In short, Hobby Lobby does not alter Title VII analysis.