June 18, 2014

Assembly Passes Legislation Prohibiting Employers from Discriminating Against an Employee's Reproductive Health Decisions

Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee today announced the passage of legislation that would bar employers from discriminating against an employee on the basis of the individual's or a dependent's reproductive health decision making (A.8769-A, Jaffee).

Known as the "Boss Bill," this measure would close a loophole in current law regarding discrimination based on an individual's reproductive health care by adding Section 203-e to the New York State Labor Law. Section 203-e would prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of the employee's (or a dependent's) reproductive health decisions, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service. It also prohibits discrimination based on an employer's personal beliefs about such services.

"The Assembly has long held the belief that decisions that are as personal as reproductive health choices are belong to the individual and the individual alone," Speaker Silver said. "This is a common sense measure that underscores the need for fairness and equality for every single individual in the workplace. Employers have no right to interfere with an employee's personal medical decisions, and they certainly do not have any right to discriminate against one of their workers on the basis of a private decision the individual may make regarding reproductive health."

"This legislation provides a key protection for employees by ensuring that individuals can freely make their own reproductive health decisions without the fear of being retaliated or discriminated against by their employer," Jaffee said. "This legislation will strengthen and expand state law to ensure that an employer cannot retaliate against an employee because the employee or their dependent accessed care related to pregnancy, family planning or any other reproductive health service. An employer's personal beliefs should simply not get in the way of his or her employee's private medical decisions."

"The Boss Bill protects a worker's right to access basic health care services without interference by their employers," said M. Tracey Brooks, President and CEO of Family Planning Advocates of New York State. "The Boss Bill is common sense legislation to safeguard the basic rights of women to live, work and raise their families in New York State. We thank the leadership of Speaker Silver and the tireless work of Assemblywoman Jaffee to protect New York State workers."

According to the Family Planning Advocates of New York State, 100 federal lawsuits throughout the country have been brought by employers seeking to block employees' access to contraceptive coverage now guaranteed by health plans under the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court is currently considering such a suit brought by Hobby Lobby, a national chain store and a ruling is anticipated in late June 2014.