With a lack of legislative action in Congress on employment discrimination issues, state and local governments continue to expand employee protections.

A newly enacted (and immediately effective) law in the State of New York prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against an employee on the basis of an employee’s reproductive health decision making (or that of an employee’s dependent).

The new law does not comprehensively define “reproductive health decision making” but states that it includes, but is not limited to, a decision to use or access any particular drug, device, or medical service. This definition would appear to cover things like employee decisions of whether or not to use birth control (in any form), to seek fertility treatments, to get a vasectomy, or to access abortion services.

In addition, employers are prohibited from accessing an employee’s personal information about the employee’s reproductive health decisions (or those of an employee’s dependents), unless the employer has the employee’s prior, written informed consent.  Employers may not require an employee to sign a waiver or any document that appears to deny or restrict the employee’s right to make their own reproductive health care decisions.

In additions, employers who have employee handbooks are now required to include a notice of employees’ rights and remedies under this law in their handbooks.

The law includes a private right of action and stiff penalties for violations. For more information, check out our Workplace Watch Alert on this new law.