New York City Adds “Sexual and Reproductive Health Decisions” as a Protected Class

In December 2018 the New York City Council passed legislation adding “sexual and reproductive health decisions” to the list of protected classes under the City’s Human Rights Law. As NYC employers are already aware, the New York City Human Rights Law is the primary local law in NYC protecting individuals against discrimination and harassment on the basis of, among other things, their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, caregiver status or national origin. In the words of the law’s sponsor, Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, the law’s purpose is to “protect women and men from ever fearing whether personal health and reproductive choices will risk their jobs.” Transcript, Nov. 19, 2018 (5:4 – 5:8).

As defined by the law, “‘sexual and reproductive health decisions’ means any decision by an individual to receive services, which are arranged for or offered or provided to individuals relating to sexual and reproductive health, including the productive system and its functions.” Int No. 863-A, § 2. The law also provides the following examples of services protected by the law:

  • Abortion
  • Fertility-related treatment;
  • STD prevention, testing, and treatment;
  • Family planning services and counseling;
  • Use of birth control drugs and supplies;
  • Emergency contraception; and
  • Sterilization procedures.

The law prohibiting discrimination and harassment based upon employees’ reproductive health decisions became effective on May 20, 2019. Employers in New York City should immediately take note of this amendment, and update their employment policies to include “sexual and reproductive health decisions” among the list of protected classes.