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Senate Labor Committee clears 'Boss Bill' for floor vote

Legislation makes it illegal to discriminate against employees based on their reproductive health care decisions

By Kelly Fay
Staff Writer
June 04, 2014
The Senate Labor Committee on Tuesday advanced legislation known as the Boss Bill, which would prevent employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health decisions. The legislation was unanimously supported by the committee, with the exception of Sen. Greg Ball, who did not enter a vote, and it will now be sent to the Senate floor for a first reading.

"If you're an employee who's using the health insurance provided by your employer, your employer should not have the right to use the information they glean about you against you just because they do not approve of what kind of health care you seek," Senate sponsor Liz Krueger explained.

Krueger, D-Manhattan, said New Yorkers may be surprised to know that an employer is able to fire an employee on the grounds they religiously object to certain reproductive decisions such as using contraception, becoming pregnant outside of wedlock, or taking advantage of fertility enhancement procedures.

Sen. Liz Krueger, below, sponsor of the 'Boss Bill,' says it is unfair that an employer is able to fire an employee on the grounds they religiously object to certain reproductive decisions such as using contraception.
"Why does the employer's moral and religious teaching override your legal rights and your moral and religious teaching to decide whether to procreate or not?" Krueger asked.

While the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prohibits health records from being provided to an employer, the senator said it is still easy for them to hear about certain decisions made by employees. Furthermore, employers receive a list of health services provided through their policies, which can easily be narrowed down to specific individuals if it's a small workforce.

The senator noted that the Boss Bill would not only protect women, but also men who may choose to undergo a vasectomy or other treatments affecting their fertility and reproductive health.

Krueger said discrimination based on personal reproductive decisions has come to the forefront of discussion since the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, which required birth control coverage on all employer health plans. The U.S. Supreme Court is also expected to hand down a decision on a case brought by Hobby Lobby, a nationwide arts and crafts store with approximately 14 locations in New York. The for-profit company is challenging the ACA mandate requiring birth control coverage on the grounds that it violates the religious rights of the owners.

Religious entities are already exempt from the ACA requirement to provide contraception. Additionally, late last year the Supreme Court granted four groups affiliated with the Catholic Church an exemption.

The Boss Bill (S.06578-B/A.08769) remains in the Labor Committee in the Assembly, where it is sponsored by Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern.

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