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Nov 27
New Law Bars Discriminating Against Workers Based on Reproductive Health Choices

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A new state law took effect three weeks ago that puts new restrictions on employers' ability to discriminate against workers because of workers' reproductive health decisions. Stephanie H. Fedorka of the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King has an informative blog post about it:

The law prohibits employers from accessing an employee’s personal information regarding the employee’s, or the employee’s dependent’s, reproductive health decision making without the employee’s prior informed affirmative written consent. The law prohibits employers from discriminating against or taking retaliatory action against an employee with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of or on the basis of the employee’s, or his/her dependent’s, reproductive health decision making. An employer also may not require an employee to sign a waiver or other document that attempts to deny the employee the right to make their own reproductive health decisions.

The law gives employees the right to file a claim in court against an employer alleged to have violated the prohibition on discrimination based on reproductive health decision making. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who exercise their right to: (1) make or threaten to make a complaint to an employer, a co-worker, or to a public body, that the employer violated the law; (2) causing to be instituted any proceeding under the law; or (3) providing information to or testifying before any public body conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry into any alleged violation of the law. Prohibited retaliatory actions include discharging, suspending, demoting, or otherwise penalizing an employee for engaging in these protected actions.

The new law also requires employers that provide an employee handbook to their employees to include in the employee handbook a notice of employee rights and remedies under New York Labor Law Section 203-e. So, employers that have employee handbooks should promptly revise their handbooks to comply with this new requirement.

The law took effect immediately when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed it on November 8. It does not appear that the New York State Department of Labor has published a sample provision for employee handbooks pertaining to the new law. Insurance agencies and brokerages that have employee handbooks should work with a qualified human resources consultant such as Affinity HR Group to develop a notice that complies with the law's requirements.

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