The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires non-grandfathered health plans to cover certain preventative health services. In a case seeking an injunction to bar enforcement of ACA’s so-called “contraception mandate” on the ground that it infringed plaintiffs’ deeply held religious beliefs, the Sixth Circuit held that secular, closely held for-profit corporations were not “persons” protected by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Autocam Corp v. Sebelius, 2013 WL 5182544 (6th Cir. Sept. 17, 2013). The court reasoned that the statute burdened the corporations, not the individual owners, and there was no authority to pierce the corporate veil with respect to the owners’ religious beliefs. The Sixth Circuit’s ruling, which joins the Third circuit, deepens the circuit split on the enforceability of ACA’s contraception mandate. The Third, Seventh and Tenth Circuits that concluded religious protections extend to for-profit companies.
Russell Hirschhorn is a senior counsel in the ERISA Practice Center and the Labor & Employment Law Department, where he focuses on complex ERISA litigation and advises and represents employers, fiduciaries, trustees and plan service providers on ERISA benefit and fiduciary issues.