Two federal district courts have enjoined the Trump Administration’s expansion of the moral and religious exemptions to the PPACA’s contraceptive mandate. As background, back in October 2017, the HHS, Treasury Department and DOL (the Departments) jointly issued interim final rules that broadened those exemptions. Specifically, the Departments’ interim final rules basically allowed any employer to claim a religious or moral objection to offering certain contraceptives, including non-closely held companies and even publicly traded companies.
After those rules were issued, many entities sued the Trump administration, claiming that the expansion of the exemption was unlawful for various reasons. Among those litigants are the state of Pennsylvania and a group of states including California, Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia.
On Dec. 15, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued a preliminary injunction in favor of Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania v. Trump. The injunction blocks the Departments from enforcing the final regulations issued in October 2017 (discussed above).
The court in that case ruled that Pennsylvania was likely to succeed in showing that the agencies didn’t follow proper federal procedure when issuing the regulations. They also ruled that Pennsylvania had adequately shown that their citizens would suffer irreparable harm should the injunction not be granted. So although the court didn’t decide the case on its merits, it did decide to put a halt to the interim final rules during the course of the litigation.
Similarly, on Dec. 21, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the State of California and the other plaintiffs in State of California v. HHS. The court in this case also reasoned that the Departments had failed to follow proper procedure and that the citizens of the different plaintiff states would suffer irreparable harm if the Departments’ interim final rules were allowed to remain for the duration of the proceedings.
Ultimately, this issue is far from over. It seems quite likely that the Trump Administration will appeal these rulings, and the states who sued will also continue to litigate their positions. As these (and other) challenges work their way through the courts, employers who are looking to avail themselves of these exemptions should work with legal counsel to ensure that they remain abreast of all the developments in this situation.
Pennsylvania v. Trump »
State of California v. HHS »