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NYS Requires NEW Employee Handbook Updates for Reproductive Health Decisions By Alexandra Lapes, Esq.

    Nearly a year after New York City passed legislation adding "sexual and other reproductive health decisions" to the list of protected characteristics under the City's Human Rights Law, New York State Governor Cuomo signed into legislation the so-called "Boss Bill" to ensure employees and their dependents can make personal reproductive health decisions without fear of discrimination or retaliation by their employers. 

    The law amends NYS Labor Law to prohibit discrimination and retaliation based on an employee’s or a dependent’s reproductive health decision making, and to require employers to obtain an employee’s informed, affirmative written consent before accessing personal information regarding an employee’s or the employee’s dependent’s reproductive health decision making.  "Reproductive health decision making" is defined as, "including, but not limited to, the decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service." The NYS law further prohibits employers from requiring employees to sign a waiver or any other document that could deny their right to make reproductive health decisions, and it protects employees from retaliation for asserting their rights under the law.  

    Significantly, in addition to imposing new legal protections, the law mandates explicitly detailed new policy language to be included in every New York employer’s employee handbooks.  As of January 7, 2020, employers were required to update their handbook policies to comply with the law’s requirements.  Employers therefore should ensure their handbooks incorporate notice of employees' rights and remedies under the law, as well as train human resources, managers, and supervisors on the consent and notice requirements, and to exclude any information related to an employee's or a dependent's reproductive health choices from any decision making process.