Podcast: How Employer Uproar Helped Amend Controversial Indiana Law

Hosted by: David Weisenfeld

When Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) law on March 26, it quickly sparked a nationwide backlash that caught state leaders by surprise. This XpertHR podcast examines the uproar and how employer complaints led to a change in the law.

The Indiana RFRA law allows any for-profit business to assert a free exercise of religion claim. But opponents countered immediately that the law could permit businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers and that it went well beyond the federal RFRA. These concerns led Connecticut, Washington and others to ban state-funded trips to Indiana while some employers cancelled expansion plans in the state. It even briefly sparked boycotts of the men's basketball Final Four in Indianapolis, which took place the week after the law passed.

Podcast: How Employer Uproar Helped Amend Controversial Indiana Law

April 20, 2015

Indiana employment attorney Stuart Buttrick practices with Faegre Baker Daniels, where he heads the labor management relations team for the firm's labor and employment practice group. In the podcast, Buttrick says there is no question that Indiana employers made their voices heard in protesting the new law.

"All politicians listen to money. And when it starts to affect the bottom line and the business community gets upset about things, changes can happen quickly," Buttrick said. He notes, for instance, that a similar provision was scuttled in an Arkansas RFRA law when Wal-Mart expressed discrimination concerns.

Following the boycotts, an amendment to the Indiana RFRA was passed stating that the law does not authorize discrimination based on protected status, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Buttrick notes that many Indiana business leaders helped draft the amendment. He views this development as significant because it marks the first time Indiana has grouped sexual orientation and gender identity together with more commonly thought of protected classes such as race and gender.