National Consumers League

NCL decries Supreme Court rulings in Harris v. Quinn and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

June 30, 2014

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League,, (202) 835-3323

Washington, DC--Today’s Supreme Court decisions on Harris v. Quinn and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is a sharp rebuke to working families and especially female employees across the country, according to a statement released by the National Consumers League (NCL).

In the Harris v. Quinn decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Illinois home healthcare workers cannot be forced to pay an agency fee to the labor group negotiating their employment contract. This ruling creates insecurity and instability for employers and unions throughout the public sector. The decision creates a special class for Medicaid and state funded home healthcare workers as neither private nor public, but rather "partial public employees."

At issue in this case was whether non-union members could reap the wages, benefits, and protections negotiated in a collectively bargained contract without being required to pay union dues. As “partial public employees”, the Court decided that the same labor rules do not apply and that workers can opt out of joining a union and go without contributing dues to the labor union that is responsible for negotiating their employment contract.

“At a time when many wages are stagnant, others are eroding, and income inequality is out of control, joining together to collectively bargain is one of the only proven ways that home care workers can improve their working conditions,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League.  

“NCL calls on the Obama Administration to stick to the promise it implement long-awaited federal companionship worker regulations for 2.5 million home care workers by January 1, 2015. The new rules will extend basic federal minimum wage and overtime protections to the millions of workers who care for seniors and people with disabilities living independently in their homes.”

Also today, by the same margin of 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case that for-profit employers’ religious beliefs can determine a workers’ access to healthcare. The ruling makes it acceptable for closely-held corporations to use their religious beliefs to take away benefits guaranteed to their employees by law. This decision allows bosses to deny women coverage for basic needs such as birth control. 

This case challenged a part of the Affordable Care Act requiring health plans to cover contraception without a co-pay.

“The Court’s decision prohibits female workers from making their own health decisions without intrusion from their bosses,” said Greenberg. “This ruling is a step in the wrong direction for women, workers, and employers.”


About the National Consumers League 
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit