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Fired for Using Birth Control? Calif. Bill Would Protect Workers’ Rights

Topics: Career Advice

Last week, the California State Assembly voted 45-13 in favor of Bill 569, sending it on to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature. If signed into law, the bill will make it illegal for employers to fire workers for their reproductive decisions, including using birth control and getting an abortion.

“It’s an issue of basic health, privacy and worker rights,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher.

The text of the bill reads, in part:

This bill would make legislative findings and declarations relating to the right to privacy. The bill would amend provisions of labor law relating to the prohibition on an employer from taking any adverse action against an employee or their dependent or family member for their reproductive health decisions, including, but not limited to, the timing thereof, or the use of any drug, device, or medical service. The bill would also specify that any contract or agreement, express or implied, made by an employee to waive this benefit is null and void. The bill would require an employer that requires compliance with an employee handbook to include in the handbook notice of the employee rights and remedies under the provisions of this bill.

The Purpose of the Bill

birth control
Kitty Marion with copies of “The Birth Control Review,” 1915. Via Wikimedia Commons.

“What this bill does is make sure that people can make the best healthcare decisions for themselves and for their families without the fear that they’ll risk their livelihoods in doing so,” said Rebecca Griffin of NARAL Pro-Choice California, which sponsored the legislation.

“Right now, while we’re facing a federal government that is attacking reproductive freedom at every turn and condoning the type of discrimination that this bill prohibits, we feel like this is the time for California to take a stand for our values and make sure that our workers have the best protections possible,” Griffin continued.

NARAL Pro-Choice California highlights examples like Teri James, who was fired from her job as a financial specialist at San Diego Christian College in 2012, allegedly for being pregnant and unmarried.

The Sacramento Bee reports that the California Chamber of Commerce opposes the bill “for opening another avenue of potential litigation.” Some religious groups have also argued that the bill would restrict employers’ religious freedom.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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