This case is about whether religious and spiritual expressions should be incorporated in the workplace, particularly with regards to for-profit organizations. The main issue of interest is to determine whether private companies should be allowed to outwardly express faith-based priorities and whether it is correct for organizations to discriminate against certain employees based on their spirituality or religious beliefs.
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The case revolves around two companies, namely Hobby Lobby and AutoZone Incorporated. David Green, the founder, and CEO of Hobby Lobby established the privately held company on a firm Christian foundation and continued to associate the company’s success with its commitment to faith-based ideas. However, the introduction of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 presented new challenges for the company because Green felt that the section mandating organizations to provide contraception coverage to employees goes against the Christian principles on which Hobby Lobby was founded. Green believed that the government was intervening unnecessarily in a faith-based company and hence moved to court to overturn the mandate by requesting a determination on whether a for-profit organization qualifies as a religious employer.
The issue of AutoZone revolves around Frank Mahoney Burroughs, an employee of the company who converted to Sikhism only to find that his mandated religious attire conflicted with established AutoZone policies on dress code. The employee was the subject of continuous discrimination from colleagues and some managers due to his religious attire, with some associating him with terrorist activities. Upon reporting the discriminatory incidence to the HR department, Burroughs was asked for documentation from his place of worship detailing the reasons for his religious attire; however, he was fired weeks later for what was termed as job abandonment. Although Burroughs received an out-of-court settlement upon successfully suing AutoZone for the termination, the question remained on whether it was justifiable for companies to discriminate against certain employees based on their faith or religious convictions.
The first problem relates to deciding on whether privately-owned companies should be exempted from complying with U.S. law based on their commitment to faith and values. The second problem relates to determining whether it is justifiable for some employees to express outwardly their faith and spirituality in the workplace even when it is clear that not all employees or employers share the same beliefs or values. The next problem relates to whether it is correct for organizations to change their policies and dress codes to accommodate the religious orientation of a few employees. The last problem concerns deciding whether privately-owned companies should be allowed to limit their employees’ access to government-legislated health benefits just because they do not share the same religious beliefs.