Signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on November 8, a new law (S-660) makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee based on their reproductive healthcare decisions. While the law has the potential to protect women from discrimination who choose to carry a baby to term, the law’s justification makes it clear that its purpose is to protect women who decide to have an abortion. Justification for the bill as provided on the New York State Senate’s website is as follows:
“This bill ensures that employees or their dependents are able to make their own reproductive health care decisions without incurring adverse employment consequences. The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) recently required that health insurance plans cover FDA-approved birth control methods without out-of-pocket costs. Some for-profit employers have attempted to prevent employees from accessing this benefit because it conflicts with their personal beliefs. As a result, over 100 federal lawsuits have been filed by employers to deny employees this benefit, including employers operating in New York State. Employers should not be able to discriminate or interfere in employees’ personal medical decisions.”
“While federal and state laws have been enacted which demonstrate a commitment to protect individuals against employment discrimination, loopholes exist which leave employees vulnerable to discrimination based on their reproductive health decisions. The Legislature must ensure that the legal loopholes are corrected to ensure that employees’ decisions about pregnancy, contraception, and reproductive health are also protected under state law.”
It appears also that the bill would not allow pro-life organizations to refuse to hire or to fire employees who are pro-abortion or who have had an abortion. Pro-life groups are comparing the requirement to one that would not allow PETA to fire employees who go hunting. The Alliance Defending Freedom has flied a lawsuit against the state in federal court on behalf of a church and pregnancy center saying the bill “forces them to hire employees who disagree with the fundamental beliefs and mission of the organizations.”
The bill provides civil remedies for employees who feel they have been discriminated against because of their reproductive healthcare decisions.