The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments later this month in the Hobby Lobby case, the legal challenge to the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act that is premised on the legal theory that secular, for-profit corporations are “people” and thus have religious exercise rights. It will be months before the Roberts Court issues a ruling in the case, but in the meantime state legislatures have stepped into the fray as well—most visibly Arizona with the high-profile debate and ultimate defeat of an expansion of the state’s “religious freedom” law that would have allowed individuals to refuse to comply with civil rights laws based on religious objections.
New York, however, is taking a different approach. The state’s “boss bill,” sponsored by state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) and Assembly member Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) 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.
The bill also prohibits discrimination based on an employer’s personal beliefs about such services, and would help protect women’s privacy rights at work.
“The fact that I take a job with somebody who may not share my views about family planning and reproductive health doesn’t mean they get to tell me I can’t use a certain kind of contraception, I can’t access certain kinds of health care or they will fire me. That’s completely unacceptable but currently protected under New York state Labor Law,” Sen. Krueger told reporters.
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According to reports, the legislation was drafted in response to the flood of for-profit businesses looking to evade the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. “This is a very important piece of legislation, something we never thought we would have to move forward to implement,” Jaffee said in a statement.
Advocates in the New York State Assembly also passed the Women’s Equality Act, a ten-point agenda that would among other things codify abortion rights and attempt to reduce gender-based pay discrimination. That bill is currently stalled in the Senate Labor Committee.
“State legislators, extremists in Congress, they’re colluding to strip away our reproductive rights, one piece at a time,” said Andrea Miller, president of NARAL Pro-Choice New York in a statement. “At the same time they have joined in a nationwide effort to make it possible, in fact, make it part of the law to allow discrimination in the context of employers being able to essentially undermine, if not eliminate, a woman’s ability to make reproductive health decisions and act against her because she makes her own reproductive health decisions.”