What does the Hobby Lobby Case Mean to your Louisiana Small Business?

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By now, you’ve probably heard about the landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the matter of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (Most people just call it Hobby Lobby). The decision allows “closely held,” for-profit corporations to be exempt from federal laws if the owners object because of religious beliefs and if a less restrictive means of furthering the government’s interest exists.

Exemptions for Small Businesses with Less than 50 Employees

There are already exceptions to federal laws in place for small employers, defined as businesses with under 50 employees, as well as exceptions for religious employers such as churches. However, Hobby Lobby, founded by self-made Evangelical Christian billionaire David Green, is an arts and crafts company with about 21,000 employees. The decision in this matter pertains to companies that employ over 50 full time workers, and the mandates that the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”) requires specifically of those employers.

The Hobby Lobby Decision

Green believes that life begins at conception, specifically fertilization, and objected to providing health insurance coverage to his female employees for four specific FDA-approved contraceptives, which he sincerely believes prevents implantation of a fertilized egg, and in his opinion constitutes abortion. Hobby Lobby’s case was consolidated with a case by Conestoga Wood Specialties, a furniture company owned by the Mennonite Hahn family, who hold the same beliefs. Conestoga employs approximately 1,000 people.

In this decision, the Court was careful to denote that the intent of its ruling was to only recognize a for-profit corporation’s claim of religious belief if it is considered to be a “closely held” corporation – not a conglomerate such as IBM or Bank of America (which are publicly traded). “Closely held” commonly refers to a company owned by a few insider shareholders, usually who also occupy the board. Though the ruling only applies to these “closely held, for-profit corporations,” who amass a small subset of the nation’s employers, many believe (based on a dissenting opinion written by Justice Ginsburg) that the ruling may have a more encompassing effect in future.

The Court interpreted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 federal act aimed at preventing laws that substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion. Following RFRA, the court completely overturned the “contraceptive mandate”, a regulation adopted by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires employers to cover specific types of contraceptives for their female employees.

The Court said that the mandate was not the least restrictive way to ensure access to contraceptive care, noting that a less restrictive alternative is already being provided for religious non-profits (who are already exempt from the mandate). The decision was split 5-4 down gender and party lines, and both sides had much to say on the matter.

What Others are Saying

This was clearly a significant decision for employers, so we’ve compiled some thoughts from around the web that provide both neutral tone arguments and a few from opposing sides.

Six Myths And Facts About The Hobby Lobby Decision

Supreme Court Rejects Contraceptives Mandate for Some Corporations

At Supreme Court, baffling decision follows awful Hobby Lobby ruling

Hobby Lobby ruling much more than abortion

Hobby Lobby decision: 5 takeaways

What Types of Offenses would Disqualify an Applicant from Working in Home Healthcare in Louisiana?

Employee Criminal background check

Here’s what to look for on employee background checks in the home healthcare industry

If you are a health care industry entrepreneur in Louisiana, you know that a nurse’s aide or a home health aide may be offered temporary employment prior to the receipt of the results of a required criminal history check – as long as they are under the direct supervision of a permanent employee or in the presence of a member of the immediate family of the patient. Then after the background check is completed, the Department of Public Safety and Corrections or authorized agency will provide to the employer only the information as is necessary, including:

  1. If the applicant was arrested for, or convicted of, or pled nolo contendere to any crime or crimes;
  2. The crime or crimes for which the individual has been arrested or convicted or to which the individual has pled nolo contendere;
  3. The date or dates on which the crime or crimes occurred, and
  4. If the applicant has a record containing information which has been expunged (which would include the date of the arrest and a notation that the individual’s record contains expunged information).

However, if you look at Louisiana statutes, Department of Health & Hospitals (“DHH”) regulations, or DHH policies, you may have a hard time finding a comprehensive list of the crimes that disqualify an employee. Louisiana lists specific crimes in pre-employment background check laws with regard to TWIC (transportation) and public schools, but nothing that answers the same question regarding healthcare workers. This means it falls on the business owner to have specific knowledge of what to look out for when reviewing the results of a background check.

If you are attempting to staff a home health care business, how are you are expected to know which former offenders you are still permitted to hire, without any clear guidelines? Also, how would an applicant know whether or not they should apply for certain jobs without any idea of whether they are legally eligible to be hired?

To answer these questions, the Home and Community Based Services division of DHH, upon request, recently provided our firm with an unpublished list of the specific charges which are considered “disqualifying offenses”. The list includes:

If a prospective health worker will be working with clients under the age of 21, these charges also apply:

Employers may also refuse to hire any applicant whose background check reveals a conviction of an offense that includes the distribution of, or possession with the intent to distribute, controlled substances.

What are “movable property taxes” in Jefferson Parish?

Have you received a “LAT Form” from Jefferson Parish in the mail recently? Don’t let the various tables and “legalese” intimidate you. Although the form may appear complicated and confusing, reporting your movable (sometimes called personal property) taxes is actually quite simple. Whether you conduct business in Metairie, Kenner, Harrahan or on the Westbank, this guide breaks down the process. Let’s start from the beginning.

LAT Form 5

What exactly is “movable property”?

Movable property is any physical property other than real estate which has a monetary value. Examples are inventory, furniture, fixtures, machinery and equipment. LA R.S. 47:2322. Some property, like motor vehicles have their own set of rules and are not considered taxable movable property in Louisiana.

Filing a Property Listing Form and Determining the Amount of the Tax

Like most property taxes, taxes on movable property in Jefferson Parish are ad valorem taxes. Ad valorem is a Latin phrase meaning “to value.” That means that amount of the tax is based on the property’s assessed value. In Louisiana, assessed value on all movable property is 15% of its fair market value. In Jefferson Parish, the law states that every person, association, company or corporation who owns or holds any tangible business personal property is required to report it annually to the parish assessor to determine its fair market value for the current tax year.

Prior to February 15th of each year, the Assessor’s Office, with locations in Gretna and Jefferson, mails self-reporting tax forms, or “LAT forms”, for all movable property. It’s the responsibility of Jefferson Parish citizens and businesses to mail the completed forms back to the assessor. East Jefferson residents should mail their forms to Jefferson, while Westbankers, living in areas like Westwego and Lafitte, should mail their forms to the Gretna office. In Jefferson Parish, unlike neighboring parishes, the LAT form is to be returned to the assessor by April 1st, or 45 days after receipt, whichever is later. LA R.S. 47:2324. Upon written request, the assessor may grant an extension of up to 30 days. If you did not receive your form on time, you can download it from the Louisiana Tax Commission’s website.

The assessor will use the LAT form to gather information to determine fair market value of the property. All movable property must be reported on the form and must also list the acquisition year and cost. The assets are depreciated according to a schedule furnished by the Louisiana Tax Commission.

Disputing the Assessment and Lowering your Tax Bill

For a period of 15 days between the months of August and September, the assessment lists of Jefferson Parish are open for public inspection. During this period, taxpayers are encouraged to check the values assessed to their property. If the property owner wishes to dispute a given valuation, he or she may fill out a “Notice of Appeal Request for Board of Review,” Form 3101, and schedule an appearance before the parish Board of Review for a hearing. The dates of hearings of the Board of Review in your parish will also be published by the assessor in the local newspaper. The Board of Review office in your parish will determine if any changes should be made to the assessment values in question. If either the assessor or the taxpayer is not satisfied with the determination of the Board of Review, either may obtain an Appeal Form, Form 3103.A, for further review by the Louisiana Tax Commission.

However, if the property owner failed to file the LAT report by the due date, the property owner gives up the legal right to contest the determination of fair market value by the parish assessor. LA R.S. 47:2329. Since you may lose those rights if you don’t report on time, it’s important to note this deadline.

Receiving your Bill and Avoiding Interest

Tax bills in Jefferson Parish for movable property are usually mailed in late November. They become due on December 1st and delinquent if not paid or postmarked by December 31st. The interest rate on any delinquent taxes is 1% per month from January 1st until they are paid in full.

Sometimes other charges besides the ad valorem tax may be added to your tax bill. Examples of these other charges include outstanding Parish liens, Louisiana Tax Commission fees, or special security district charges that are a flat amount rather than being based on the value of the property. If the bill becomes delinquent, monthly interest and other charges associated with collecting the bill are also added.

If the property owner has been notified of taxes due, yet has repeatedly failed to make any effort to pay the amount due, his or her property may be seized, advertised, and then auctioned to the public for the total delinquent amount due, including taxes, accrued penalties, interest and costs. All property is then auctioned and sold to the highest bidder for cash, LA R.S. 47:21412142, and the purchaser receives full ownership of the purchased property. LA R.S. 47:2142C. Not unlike a foreclosure “tax sale” on real property, the tax debtor is notified, and the sale is announced to the public through publication in the local newspaper.