The Supreme Court’s biggest business cases in 2014

December 20, 2013, 5:40 PM UTC

National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning

The Supreme Court will decide whether President Barack Obama defied the Constitution in 2012 when he bypassed the Senate and made three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.

What it means for business: Should the court find that the recess appointments were unconstitutional, the NLRB would have made a year's worth of decisions in disputes between companies and unions without the necessary quorum, calling into question every board decision and the rules it imposed for businesses since Jan. 4, 2012.

Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp v. Sebelius

The Supreme Court will decide a pair of cases on whether corporations, in challenging the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, can deny their employees comprehensive insurance coverage for contraceptives based on the their corporate owners' religious beliefs.

What it means for business: The case will determine if corporations have a right to religious freedom -- similar to the First Amendment rights for campaign speech they received in the Citizens United decision -- and if they count as "persons" deserving protection from laws that substantially interfere with religious practice.


Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action

Kenya Battle, a junior at Dunbar High School, stands outside of the Supreme Court as they justices heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas case

Unlike last year's affirmative action case that examined the merit of the practice, this case will determine if states can amend their constitutions to ban colleges from using affirmative action, as Michigan did in 2006. What it means for business: It's thought that a ruling in favor of limiting affirmative action by referendum could trigger more statewide votes on the issue, which could reduce the use of the affirmative action -- a practice that corporations typically support. In last year's University of Texas affirmative action case, Fortune 100 companies argued in an amicus brief that prohibiting affirmative action at the college level would hamper their ability to hire a diverse workforce.

Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

American Chemistry Council v. Environmental Protection Agency

The high court will decide whether the EPA's right to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles also allows it to regulate emissions from stationary sources like power plants. What it means for business: The industry groups challenging the regulation, like the American Chemistry Council, the Corn Refiners Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers, argue that the EPA's authority to regulate stationary sources of emissions -- if the Court validates it -- could affect "potentially millions of industrial, commercial, and residential facilities across the country, at costs estimated to run into the tens of billions of dollars per year."

Credit: Ditto Getty Images/Image Source