Cuomo signs Metzger bill shielding employees’ reproductive decisions

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill sponsored by Sen. Jen Metzger that prohibits employers from discriminating against workers or prospective employees for their beliefs and decisions regarding contraception and abortion.

The Assembly had passed the “Boss Bill” in five previous years, but the Senate had taken no vote on it while Republicans controlled that chamber. That changed in January after Democrats won a large majority in the Senate: now sponsored by the newly elected Metzger, the proposal sailed through with most Republicans in support in a 56-6 vote in the opening weeks of the legislative session. The Assembly passed it again the same day.

“No one should have to fear that they will lose their job or be demoted because of their own, private reproductive health decisions,” Metzger, a Rosendale Democrat, said in a statement after the bill signing on Nov. 8. “Choosing if and when to have children, what prescription drugs to take or medical services to access, are decisions for individuals and their families and not their employers. With threats to basic reproductive healthcare looming at the federal level, protecting New Yorkers with this legislation is more vital than ever.”

Her statement noted that while employees’ medical records are confidential under federal law, employers can glean information from “insurance summaries and other human resources documents.”

The law prevents employers from looking at records about the employee’s or a dependent’s use of a “drug, device or medical service” without the worker’s prior written consent; from using that information to retaliate against the employee “with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment”; or from making a worker sign a waiver forsaking the right to make reproductive decisions.

A coalition of groups immediately filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the law as a violation of their religious rights, arguing it would force pro-life pregnancy centers, Catholic hospitals and religious schools to employ workers who don’t share their opposition to abortion.

“No government has the right to tell pro-life or religious organizations they must hire someone who doesn’t agree with their core mission,” said Ken Connelly, general counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, the group that brought the case on behalf a Rochester pregnancy care center and other aggrieved parties.

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