New York City Employers: Sexual and Reproductive Decisions Are a New Class

By: Amy Epstein Gluck

New York City employers and employers who have employees working in New York City, add a new protective class to your employee handbooks!

That’s right. On May 20, 2019, i.e., next week-ish, the New York City Commission on Human Rights will begin enforcing the city’s broad anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation law, to prohibit discrimination on the basis of “sexual and reproductive health decisions.”

The law passed back in January, but takes 120 days to go into effect.

What does this mean? It means an employer cannot take adverse action against an employee based on any decision “to receive services, which are arranged for or offered to individuals relating to sexual and reproductive health, including the reproductive system and its functions.”

What does that mean? Well, examples of such protected decisions include:

  • Fertility-related medical procedures—think: IVF;
  • STD prevention, testing, and treatment—think: AIDS/HIV, HPV, and the like;
  • Family planning services and counseling;
  • Use of birth control pills and supplies;
  • Emergency contraception—think: the morning after pill;
  • Sterilization procedures, pregnancy tests, and abortion.

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The law’s policy statement states:

In the city of New York, with its great cosmopolitan population, there is no greater danger to the health, morals, safety and welfare of the city and its inhabitants than the existence of groups prejudiced against one another and antagonistic to each other because of their actual or perceived differences, including those based on race, color, creed, age, national origin, alienage or citizenship status, gender, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, partnership status, caregiver status, sexual and reproductive health decisions, uniformed service, any lawful source of income, status as a victim of domestic violence or status as a victim of sex offenses or stalking, whether children are, may be or would be residing with a person or conviction or arrest record.

So, Employers in NYC with more than four employees or for companies operating outside NYC but who employ employees who work in NYC, it’s time to amend those handbooks.

You’ll want to advise your supervisors, managers, and employees that the law proscribes discrimination, harassment, OR retaliation based on this new protected class in the same way that your clear, detailed policies prohibit sex (race, age, etc) discrimination and harassment.

Ensure that HR and supervisors are aware of this amendment too. You don’t want to be the NYCCHR’s test case on this amendment because you weren’t up on the new law.

Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.