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Religious Exemptions for Employees

President Barack Obama recently signed an executive order that bans federal contractors from discriminating against the sexual orientation or gender identity of its employees. This order does not include a religious exemption, meaning all federal contractors are required to follow the terms of the order regardless of their own personal religious beliefs.

This order is a stark contrast to one of the biggest cases of the summer, the Hobby Lobby case, in which the Supreme Court determined that owners of Hobby Lobby and two other corporations with “sincere Christian beliefs” could use religious exemptions to not provide employees with coverage for contraceptive drugs or devices, which would otherwise be available to employees through the Affordable Care Act.

That Hobby Lobby case had a significant amount of backlash, but it set the trend for religious exemption cases this year. Another company, Fresh Unlimited, Inc., recently won a similar religious exemption from Affordable Care Act contraception benefits, the first exemption granted since the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case.

Because the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor earlier this summer, it’s going to be difficult to overturn the precedent that has been set for religious exemptions. President Obama’s executive order is one way to get around that precedent, but it is likely that we will continue to see more companies successfully file suits for religious exemptions.

The executive order reportedly contains rules that were similar to those that would have been in an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that went before congress last year. However, that legislation stalled after passing in the Senate.

Despite the Hobby Lobby decision earlier this summer and the trend of granting religious exemptions, we certainly haven’t heard the last of this issue. For further information on employers’ and employees’ rights related to healthcare and/or religious exemptions, speak with a respected Dallas whistleblower attorney.

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