New York City Adds Layer of Protection for Employee Decisions Concerning "Sexual and Reproductive Health"

The New York City Council signaled its commitment to expanding employee protection when it further amended the New York City Human Rights Law by adding “sexual and reproductive health decisions” to its list of protected classes from discrimination. Under the amended bill, employers with four or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against employment applicants or existing employees based on sexual and reproductive health decisions. The amendment is before Mayor DiBlassio for signature, which is expected. Once signed, it will take effect 120 days thereafter.

The new category defines “sexual and reproduction health decisions” as “any decision by an individual to receive services, which are arranged for or offered or provided relating to sexual and reproductive health,” and includes fertility-related medical procedures; sexually transmitted disease prevention, testing and treatment; and family planning and counseling, such as birth control drugs and supplies, emergency contraception, sterilization procedures, pregnancy testing, and abortion. 

The legislation is intended to protect individuals from risking job loss over health and reproductive decisions. It seems to be in response to federal initiatives that allow employers to deny certain types of reproductive health benefits to their employees. This bill, however, does not require employers to provide specific benefits. Rather, it protects employees from any discriminatory actions by employers.

Once finalized, New York City employers should revise their employee handbooks and anti-discrimination policies to reflect the new law.  New York City employers must also ensure that their employment decision-making process takes the new law into account.

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