Certain family-owned companies have a beef with the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate. The mandate, which became effective on January 1, requires employers to cover birth control for their employees through their company health plans. But that goes against some business owners' religious beliefs.
Is there relief for a business when the law is at conflict with the owner's conscience? Right now, it depends on where the business is located.
For example, Utah-based Hobby Lobby asked the federal courts -- from the district court to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court -- for an exemption from the mandate while the company's general challenge was pending. Members of the Green family -- which owns Hobby Lobby -- describe themselves as "evangelical Christians," and want to be exempted from providing the "morning after" and "week after" pills on religious grounds, arguing this would violate their Christian belief that abortion is wrong, Reuters reports.
The crafty litigants were denied at every level. If you work for a family-owned business within the Tenth Circuit's jurisdiction -- and the owners of your company are morally opposed to contraceptives -- they still have to comply with the mandate or pay the fines.
The Seventh Circuit, by contrast, seems open to temporarily enjoining the mandate. In December, the appellate court granted a temporary injunction against the mandate for a construction company owned by a Catholic family in Illinois. In January, the Seventh Circuit also granted a temporary injunction to an Indiana manufacturer, and consolidated the two companies' appeals.
If you work for a similarly-minded, family-owned company in the Seventh Circuit, it would be a good time to ask for an exemption from the birth control mandate. You'll probably get a temporary exemption, and you'll be added to the consolidated appeal.
Within the other circuits, birth control mandate challenges will simply create more opportunities for a circuit split to be resolved in the Supreme Court.
For religiously-affiliated employers, the birth control mandate workaround is far less litigious. On February 1, HHS announced that it would take steps remove religiously-affiliated employers, like Catholic universities and hospitals, from the process of paying for their employees' contraception coverage, The Hill reports. Instead, the federal government will offer a rebate to insurance companies that provide contraceptives to religiously-affiliated employees through their health plans, effectively removing the employer from the payment process.
- No Relief for Hobby Lobby in Birth Control Mandate Appeal (FindLaw's Tenth Circuit Blog)
- Grote v. Sebelius (FindLaw's CaseLaw)
- Colleges Bring Birth Control Mandate Challenge to DC Circuit (FindLaw's D.C. Circuit Blog)