June 17, 2015

Assembly Legislation Fights Employment Discrimination

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Labor Committee Chair Michele Titus and bill sponsor Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee yesterday announced the passage of legislation that would prohibit employers from discriminating or taking any retaliatory personnel action based on employees' or their dependents' reproductive health decisions (A.1142-A, Jaffee).

"All New Yorkers should be able to make their own health care decisions without fearing for their job," said Heastie. "When an employer looks into reproductive health care history, this is not merely an invasion of privacy, but is outright discrimination. An employee's health care decisions bear no relevance on their ability to perform the job, nor do the health care decisions of their dependents."

"Employers should not be delving into an employee's reproductive health history," said Titus. "This is simply another avenue for employment discrimination, and it is unacceptable. Employees' health care decisions - and those of their dependents - should never be used against them at work, and this legislation protects employees' right to make the health care decisions that are best for them."

"Employers should not be able to interfere in employees' personal, medical decisions," said Jaffee. "Your health care decisions should be just that - yours. No one should be faced with being unfairly penalized at work, or losing their job, because of their reproductive health decisions."

The legislation would ensure that employees and their dependents are able to make their own reproductive health care decisions without discrimination or incurring any retaliatory personnel action at the hands of an employer. The bill prohibits an employer from accession of an employee's personal information regarding reproductive health care without the employee's informed, written consent and bars discrimination or retaliatory action against an employee on the basis of the employee's or their dependent's reproductive health decision making, regardless of how the employer learned of the decisions. The bill also requires any employer who provides an employee handbook to include a notice of employee rights and remedies in the handbook.

Additionally, the legislation provides that in a civil action that alleges a violation of this law, the court may award damages that include back pay, benefits, and reasonable attorney's fees and costs. The court may also order reinstatement or afford injunctive relief against an employer who violates this law, as well as award the plaintiff liquidated damages equal to one-hundred percent of the award for damages unless an employer proves a good faith basis to believe that its actions were in compliance with the law. Moreover, an employer who violates the law will be subject to separate civil penalties.