I don’t usually think of the political arguments surrounding abortion being an employment law issue.  However, politicians’ views on abortion will likely decide the fate of the Women’s Equality Act introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo last week, which largely addresses workplace issues.

The Women’s Equality Act is a 10-point plan designed to provide for greater equality for women.  Five of the ten points directly relate to employment laws.  The tenth point, the sticky wicket as it were, repeals state laws establishing criminal penalties for providing late-term abortions.

Specifically, if passed, the law would make 5 important changes:

  • Eliminate as a defense to pay equity claims “any other factor other than sex” to justify pay disparities and instead require that  pay decisions be based on legitimate reasons;
  • Change the definition of employer under the New York Human Rights Law to provide that any employer with 1 or more employees would be subject to the law;
  • Allow successful plaintiffs to recover attorney’s fees in employment or credit discrimination cases based on sex;
  • Prohibit employers from denying work or promotions to workers simply because they have children; and
  • Specifically require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees.

Given the vehement arguing that normally occurs whenever there is an abortion issue in this country, it is certainly possible that this debate will distract employers from realizing that the Act would make significant changes to existing employment laws.

magicianSo, the lesson here is:  don’t be distracted by shiny objects.