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No Discrimination Based on “Reproductive Health Decision Making”

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In California, it is illegal to discriminate against employees based on reproductive health decisions. It is also illegal to discriminate against an employee based on their dependent’s reproductive health decisions.

These rules were passed into law in September 2022 through California’s Senate Bill 523. Also referred to as the Contraceptive Equity Act of 2022, SB 523 became effective on January 1, 2023.

An Inside Look at California’s Senate Bill 523

Signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom along with hundreds of other pieces of state legislation, SB 523 directly impacts employers and employees throughout the state. This important law holds a provision that modifies the original California Fair Employment and Housing Act’s language regarding reproductive health decision-making.

Aside from making it illegal for an employer to discriminate against current employees for reproductive health decisions, SB 523 also makes it illegal to discriminate against job applicants for such decisions.

Dig deep into the letter of the law, and you’ll find that this statute makes it illegal for employers to force workers and job applicants to disclose information regarding the decisions they make in the context of reproductive health in connection with employment condition terms, terms of ongoing employment, or as a benefit of employment.

What Is Reproductive Health Decision Making?

It is the subtleties of language that shape how laws are interpreted and enforced. In the context of SB 523, reproductive health decision-making encompasses but is not limited to decisions to access or use specific drugs, products, devices, or medical services that relate to reproductive health.

Moreover, reproductive decision-making is also included within the umbrella term “sex” within the Fair Employment and Housing Act (or FEHA for short). In layman’s terms, this means SB 523 guarantees the right to secure housing without facing discrimination as a result of one’s reproductive health decisions.

SB 523’s Impact on Contraceptives

Aside from alterations to FEHA, SB 523 also adds requirements to the California Government Code, mandating that the vast majority of health benefit plans/contracts offer contraceptive coverage as well as coverage for related services as consistent with specific Health and Safety and Insurance Codes.

SB 523 ultimately expands Californians’ access to contraceptives through health insurance or health care service plan contracts issued, renewed, amended, or provided on or beyond the first day of the new year starting in 2024. Read through the entirety of SB 523 or consult with an employment law attorney, and you will find the language of the law requires health insurers to provide coverage at the point of sale for FDA-approved drugs used for contraception. The coverage applies to over-the-counter drugs as well as devices and additional related products.

Moreover, the letter of the law states such coverage applies to reproductive health products at pharmacies that are in-network. The linguistic nuances of the law are important as they specify that the point-of-sale health insurance provider coverage for the contraceptive devices, drugs, and products purchased at pharmacies that is in-network are to be of no cost to the consumer.

SB 523’s Relationship to California’s Insurance and Health and Safety Codes

The mandated coverage for contraceptives, along with related services, is consistent with specific sections of the Insurance Code and Health and Safety Code. The language of these Code sections is important as it states that coverage extends all the way to vasectomies to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

To be more specific, SB 523 amends the state’s Government Code for health benefit plans and contracts to provide contraceptive and related service coverage for full consistency with the language of the Health and Safety Code section 1367.25 and sections 10123.196 and 10123.1945 of the Insurance Code.

Why Was SB 523 Passed Into Law?

California legislators recently passed several other laws in response to the Supreme Court’s pivot that outlawed abortion. The state passed several new laws in the spirit of safeguarding reproductive rights. Such bills prevent California residents from being civilly or criminally liable for a loss of pregnancy, prevent cooperation with law enforcement from out of state to prevent abortion, and also prevent healthcare providers from providing medical information about abortion after receiving an out-of-state subpoena. Senate Bill 523 stands out among the group of recently passed laws.

The purpose of passing SB 523 was to safeguard reproductive rights within the state’s boundaries. Those in favor of reproductive freedom lauded the passage of SB 523 as it extended access to birth control by requiring health plans to provide coverage for over-the-counter birth control at the start of 2023.

SB 523 was also passed into law to amend Government Code section 12921, making it a civil right to seek, secure and remain employed free from discrimination in regard to one’s reproductive health decisions. Such decisions are now protected across all demographics, including race, religion, national origin, disability, ancestry, and additional protected categories.

Additional Information About SB 523 is a Click or Call Away

If you are a resident of the state of California, it is in your personal, financial, and legal interest to understand the language of SB 523, along with additional employment and reproductive health-related laws. Knowing what this recently-passed law entails makes it much easier to understand how it impacts your life and career, as well as the lives and careers of your friends and family members.

Regardless of whether you are an employee or own a business, you will benefit from a comprehensive understanding of SB 523. If you would like to learn more about SB 523, visit the California Legislative Information website at: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/home.xhtml

The entirety of SB 523 is available here: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220SB523

We also advise California employees, employers, and other related parties to seek legal counsel for professional guidance regarding SB 523. Our employment attorneys serve locals in El Centro, Riverside, San Diego, Solana Beach, Temecula, and nearby areas.

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For help, contact Gomez Trial Lawyers today for a free consultation by calling 866-TRIAL LAW (866-874-2552) or by contacting us online.

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