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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
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
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
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.
Schedule a Consultation With Gomez Trial Attorneys