Burdens, Accommodations, and More Burdens: Using ADA Case Law to Evaluate Third-Party Costs Imposed On Employees In Corporate RFRA Cases
Corey Stern, University of Pennsylvania
Thesis or dissertation
In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court ruled that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), Hobby Lobby Stores and other closely-held companies could exempt themselves from the Contraceptive Mandate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA). This was the first time that the religious convictions of a for-profit company were recognized under RFRA. Though it has only been two years since the Hobby Lobby ruling, scholars have tried to fully understand the ramifications of the decision. One major area of debate among scholars has been the issue of third-party costs in similar RFRA cases. There are questions as to whether or not this issue was properly addressed in Hobby Lobby, and whether it should be addressed in future cases. These questions are especially substantial as experts attempt to predict what other religious exemptions employers might seek in the future — and whether or not they will be granted. However, there has been limited scholarly research exploring how the third-party costs of a RFRA exemption should be weighed against the burdens a religious objector would face without an exemption. Kara Lowentheil has provided what is likely the most thorough, but largely theoretical, framework for weighing the two. This paper seeks to build off of Lowentheil’s framework using existing case law from a comparable area: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Both RFRA and the ADA allow for accommodations for individuals protected under the respective laws, given that they do not create undue hardships for others. Specifically, ADA cases related to the workplace can help us establish a clearer picture of the benchmarks that might exist for weighing third-party costs in future corporate RFRA cases.
Since September 14, 2017
Date Posted: 14 September 2017
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