Last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s injunction of the enactment of Mississippi’s “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (HB 1523). As written about in a blog post from July 2016 and one from April 2016, this law was touted as only dealing with state action against individuals who may have strong religious or moral beliefs in how they make service or employment decisions. Many thought that HB 1523 could be interpreted much more broadly and got a court to enjoin it.
The 5th Circuit found that the individuals and groups that obtained the injunction had not yet suffered an adequate injury that would give them standing to challenge the constitutionality of the law. The opinion did not make any judgments on how the court might rule if a plaintiff with an actual injury challenged the law.
It is likely that the plaintiffs in this matter will ask for a rehearing, a stay, or take this case to the United States Supreme Court. As the law was scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2016, given the 5th Circuit’s ruling, it may be considered effective immediately. As noted in our earlier posts on this matter, it is important for Mississippi employers to remember that this law does not relieve them of any responsibilities or prohibitions under federal laws like Title VII.