The California State Senate recently passed a bill that would explicitly protect employees from adverse employment actions for decisions they make concerning their reproductive health. The bill, if passed, would prohibit employers from firing, demoting, or otherwise discriminating against an employee because of a decision they make in their own private life. The law’s primary protections would likely be afforded to women who choose to take birth control, have premarital sex, and/or have an abortion. Opponents of the bill argue that it violates religious freedom. These opponents also argue that employees who make certain reproductive decisions are already protected against retribution under the current employment laws.
Current Laws that Protect San Jose Employees Against Employment Discrimination
Employees in the San Jose area are afforded the protections of both California state and federal law. California has some of the country’s most protective employment laws. These laws make it incredibly difficult for employers in San Jose to discriminate against its employees. Those who oppose the reproductive health non-discrimination bill argue that these laws already protect employees for the reproductive health decisions they make. The California Fair Employment Housing Act of 1959 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act are two laws that have been interpreted to cover reproductive health decisions.
California Fair Employment Housing Act of 1959
The California Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of “race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status of any person.” This language does not explicitly protect pregnant women, nor does the language explicitly protect employees for decisions about their own personal reproductive health. However, the law has been interpreted to offer these protections.
These rights have essentially been classified as “disabilities” or “medical conditions” for the purposes of the law. This means that if an employee makes a decision about her reproductive health that her employer disagrees with, she would basically have to assert that the decision was concerning a disability or medical condition. The choice to take birth control, get a vasectomy, or have an abortion can be an important decision that is wholly unrelated to a disability or medical condition.
Pregnancy Discrimination Act
On the other hand, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) specifically prohibits employment discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Controversial reproductive health decisions such as abortion and contraception are explicitly listed as protected rights. However, abortion is listed as a “medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.” Some reproductive health decisions are definitely given limited protections, but there is still some room for argument over others.
Confirming the Right to Make Choices About Reproductive Health Without Consequence
Even though courts have historically determined that reproductive decisions are protected under FEHA, there is no guarantee that these rights will exist forever. Courts change over time. As new judges are seated, new interpretations of the law may overturn those that currently exist.
Proponents of the bill suggest that “there are employers who cross the line by invading the privacy and personal lives of the women who work for them.” The California reproductive health non-discrimination bill removes any doubt about whether the employers can discriminate against employees for the reproductive health decisions they make. The bill would help to ensure that employers could not use loopholes or future changes in the interpretation of existing law to discriminate against employees for their very personal decisions.
San Jose Employment Discrimination Attorneys
Employees should not face discriminatory actions at work because of the reproductive health decisions they make in their personal lives. If you have been the victim of workplace discrimination because you made a personal decision that your employer did not agree with, you may be entitled to compensation. Adverse employment actions that could trigger liability include: demotion, reduction in salary or pay, reduced work hours, not receiving promotions, and termination. Contact our experienced San Jose employment discrimination attorneys today to schedule your free consultation. We would be happy to discuss your case and answer the questions you may have.