Perkins Lies About Poll on Workplace Discrimination »« Geroux on ‘God’s Not Dead’ and Modern Conservatism

Possible Outcomes in the Hobby Lobby Case

The Supreme Court should hand down its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case Wednesday, Thursday or Monday. The New Republic has a rundown of some of the possible outcomes if the court rules in favor of the company. As is often the case, much will depend on how broad or narrow the ruling is.

If the Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga, the implications will depend on the scope of the Court’s ruling. They could apply the decision narrowly to family-owned or so-called “closely held” companies (which have a limited number of shareholders) like Hobby Lobby, which has 16,000 full time employees. Or they could also encompass all privately held companies, which would apply to corporations such as Dell Inc., owned by Michael Dell.

I didn’t even know that was at issue. I thought the ruling would automatically apply to all for-profit companies, but the court could well make a distinction between a closely held company owned by an individual or a family and publicly held companies that have lots and lots of “owners.”

Some of the other possible variables:

2. Employers could seek exemptions to coverage of other types of medical care based on personal religious beliefs. For example, Jehovah’s Witness owners could request an exemption from providing coverage for blood transfusions, since the treatment goes against the religion’s belief system. These exemption requests would likely be assessed on a case-by-case basis, Sobel said.

3. This decision could allow companies to deny other types of benefits to employees based on religious beliefs. For instance, gay rights groups fear that a pro-Hobby Lobby decision could lead to companies denying spousal benefits to same-sex couples. In February, the Arizona state legislature passed a law that would allow businesses to restrict service to gay customers based on the business’s religious beliefs. The statute was vetoed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer after heavy lobbying from Arizona business leaders, Democrats, and Republicans, but Mississippi passed a similar law in April. “It depends how the Court crafts the decision to see how far that door is open, how many people can bring lawsuits, and if it’s at the federal or state level,” Sobel said.

That last part is a real danger. If they issue a broad ruling that for-profit companies are covered under RFRA, I would anticipate two outcomes: 1) state legislatures will begin amending their laws to allow religious exemptions from anti-discrimination laws as well; and 2) companies will begin filing suits to get exemptions from both state and federal anti-discrimination laws. This would essentially gut the Civil Rights Act. Anyone can claim a religious exemption that would allow them to discriminate on the basis of gender, race or religion. Whether the courts would later grant such exemptions is an open question, of course. I actually doubt that they would. But it would open up a floodgate of such suits.

Comments

  1. sabrekgb says

    Lots of very interesting and potentially troubling implications for this case. Let us hope SCOTUS rules in a way that doesn’t leave everyone worse off.

  2. dogmeat says

    I still don’t see how health care can be seen as the property of the employer. Even if you argue that mandated health care changes the formula somehow it doesn’t add up. By that same logic, then if I have to pay my employees minimum wage I should be able to tell them what they can do with any wages above the $3.50 an hour I believe they should be making. The health coverage, in this case, is a benefit of their labor, like their wages it belongs to the employee, not the employer.

  3. says

    The health coverage, in this case, is a benefit of their labor, like their wages it belongs to the employee, not the employer.

    .
    Technically, yes but psychologically a paternalistic employer such as Hobby Lobby would consider the employee to be the property of the employer so they can expect to control every aspect of their life.

  4. says

    What would happen, do you suppose, if the business owners were Christian Scientists and claimed a religious right to deny ALL forms of health care? Or some branch of snake-handling faith healers?

  5. D. C. Sessions says

    This would essentially gut the Civil Rights Act.

    One of the main reasons I expect the Court to rule broadly in favor of Hobby Lobby. It would also be a huge boost for the membership in the Southern Baptists.

  6. says

    I wonder should the LDS majority in Utah that works at Hobby Lobby claim religious persecution and take the company to court? Or is this kind of religious persecution OK? Sounds like they forgot about the Civil Rights of the employees.

  7. says

    Also if they do rule in favor of this couldn’t the employee request that the employer pay the full amount, since it isn’t their property?

  8. says

    Wes Aaron “Sounds like they forgot about the Civil Rights of the employees.”
    The what? Employers have Rights. Employees have privileges, granted to them by their employers. It’s Noblesse Oblige, but with “Oblige” replaced with the Church Lady.
     
    Besides, it all balances out, since Employers don’t have the Freedom to not stick their noses in the private parts of their employees (on account of it being commanded by the Employer’s Employer, God), while if the employees don’t like their Employer’s Freedom, they themselves have the Freedom to find another job.

  9. vereverum says

    I read somewhere that also at issue was that HL wanted to ban the insurance provider from even making private one-on-one contracts with the employees for the unacceptable features. Is that true or just the usual sky is falling hysteria?

  10. whheydt says

    Well…. The decision doesn’t appear to have come down today (though they did decide that the cops need an actual warrant to poke around in your smartphone if they arrest you).

    In semi-related news, the 10th Circuit upheld (2-1) the district court decision tossing the Utah anti-SSM laws. The ruling is still stayed, since the stay was granted by the SCOTUS.

  11. Crimson Clupeidae says

    I can’t imagine SCOTUS making a narrow ruling on this, at worst. Even though several of the justices are obviously becoming more and more guided by ideology and less by any real sense of justice, they can’t possibly overlook the can of worms a broad ruling in favor of HL would create.

    Well, ok, maybe they can, but I really hope they try not to unleash chaos….

  12. D. C. Sessions says

    Well, ok, maybe they can, but I really hope they try not to unleash chaos….

    In Chaos there is profit.

    However, I would have to agree with you that the Team Republican Five aren’t by nature chaotic. Lawful/Evil would be my usual take. However, I don’t think they have any real objections to unleashing> evil unless they need a pretext, as in Greece v. Galloway. On the other hand, the rulings on election finance and gun control have certainly unleashed chaos with no indication that the TR5 intended anything else. In fact, I suspect that the consequences suit them just fine.

  13. Scott F says

    2) companies will begin filing suits to get exemptions from both state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

    This would seem to be a problem for the conservatives, probably an unintended problem. Having to decide such cases would put the government directly in the position of having to determine what religious beliefs are “strongly” held, and which aren’t; which personal religious beliefs are sufficient to justify denying stuff to employees, and which aren’t; whose religion has more legal clout than another. The government would have to decide whether the Church of the FSM is a religion or not, and whether they can penalize their employees (or favor others) for not wearing pirate garb on religious Fridays (for example).

    Surely that can’t be what the conservatives want to see happen. I imagine that this is exactly what Scalia wants the Courts to do, but I can’t imagine it’s what even Roberts would prefer.

  14. D. C. Sessions says

    Surely that can’t be what the conservatives want to see happen. I imagine that this is exactly what Scalia wants the Courts to do, but I can’t imagine it’s what even Roberts would prefer.

    You think not? Look at the excuse they gave in Greece v. Galloway — you can have exclusionary prayers at school board meetings, but only if they’re traditional and not too exclusionary.

    And that is going to save the courts from the burden of the Lemon standard? SRSLY?

  15. says

    D. C. Sessions “However, I would have to agree with you that the Team Republican Five aren’t by nature chaotic. Lawful/Evil would be my usual take.”
    Not any more. Not since Obama incorporated Lawful/Evil into a policy of his. Now they’re against Lawful/Evil (“Never before has a president of these United States so flagrantly espoused an Alignment against the will of the American Public”). Now they’re just dicks.

  16. gerryl says

    At my company they tell us that healthcare coverage is part of our “total compensation.” They present us with a pie chart that shows all the components of our pay, and the actual salary is only one slice of the pie — substantial, but not the whole pie. So, if an employer can refuse to allow an employee to spend their compensation (i.e., h/c coverage) on birth control because it is against the employer’s religious beliefs, could an employer who is Mormon forbid employees from using the wage part of their compensation on, say, booze and Starbucks?

    Once an employee earns the money, it’s theirs. How can the court say employers can tell them how to spend it?

  17. dingojack says

    And here was I thinking money is speech.
    HL restrict their employees’ speech? How very dare they!
    Dingo

  18. OldEd says

    I seem to recall reading a document somewhere, sometime, that included the following…
    .
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

  19. says

    @20:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”

    I think that they’re trying to make a law establishing the respect of religion.

  20. says

    Ruling in Hobby Lobby’s favor would be the same as allowing a Hasidic Jew who owns a big company to prohibit employees from purchasing ham and bacon, shellfish, or cheeseburgers with their compensation because it is against his religion. Or Baptists prohibiting an employee from buying booze with his salary.
    Health care is the same damn thing. Just like the money is the employee’s once the money is in the bank, employer-provided health insurance is the employee’s to use as she wishes once the employer makes the contribution.

  21. abb3w says

    Never mind the questions of employee compensation, I’m still not buying that religious affiliation can cross the corporate veil in one direction when a lawsuit can’t cross it in the other.

Leave a Reply