U.S. Supreme Court delivers decisions that affect many employers

The U.S. Supreme Court has been getting down to business in its last week of session, delivering three important decisions for Missouri employers.

Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby

On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of craft chain Hobby Lobby, allowing the for-profit business to cite religious objections in order to opt out of providing free contraceptive coverage for their employees under the Affordable Care Act.

Hobby Lobby was joined in the suit by a wood furniture company, Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp.   The companies argued that providing methods and devises that they believe work after conception, including emergency contraceptives and intrauterine devices, went against their religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby owners are evangelical Christians. Conestoga is owned by a Mennonite family. More than 50 other companies have filed similar lawsuits.

At the center of the case was determining whether the 1993 religious freedom law, which protects an individual’s religious rights, extends to secular, for-profit corporations and their owners.  The High Court’s ruling sets an important precedent for employers and could have legal impact far beyond this case.

Harris vs. Quinn

Illinois home-based care workers can’t be forced to pay dues to a union they don’t want to join, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 30.

The case was brought by healthcare worker Pamela Harris who argued that compulsory union dues are forced association and speech prohibited by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.  Harris is backed by the anti-union National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.  Harris sought to upend the decades-old practice of assessing fair-share fees on employees that choose not to be part of a public union.  These mandatory fees were allowed through a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977.

The decision was narrowly written to only cover certain home-health care workers.  Supporters of the suit had hoped for a broad ruling that would have blocked mandatory fees for all public sector workers, such as teachers and firefighters.

National Labor Relations Board vs. Noel Canning

The June 26 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in NLRB v. Noel Canning is good news for employers. The U.S. Chamber helped to bring this case for its client and member, Noel Canning, challenging the president’s unconstitutional recess appointments to the NLRB.

“The President’s unprecedented recess appointments left the NLRB in a legal limbo, causing major uncertainty for both employers and employees alike,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber. “The Chamber was pleased to support its member, Noel Canning, in this case and believes the Court made the right decision.”

In January 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit invalidated an NLRB decision against Noel Canning, holding that the Board lacked a quorum because three “recess” appointments to the Board were unconstitutional.  The Board issued hundreds of decisions after those appointments were made in January 2012, including over 300 after the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Noel Canning v. NLRB.

For more information on these rulings, or other legal issues, contact Jay Atkins, Missouri Chamber general counsel and director of legislative affairs, at jatkins@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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About mochamber

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry understands that the quality of life in our state depends on quality jobs for Missourians. To that end, we have one simple mission: to protect and advance Missouri business.

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