During a recent Senate confirmation hearing to the post of Health and Human Services Secretary, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), stated he did not believe companies were allowed to terminate women from their jobs for their reproductive choices. Specifically, he indicated that the right to use birth control was not something that affected women’s employment status.
In fact, as our gender discrimination attorneys know, this is far from true.
Price is a conservative politician, and as such, he has been vocal and active in his anti-abortion stance. And in 2015, he voted for a resolution that would have eliminated protections for women in the District of Columbia from being fired due to their reproductive health choices. That resolution indicated at the top that it opposed the vote by the D.C. Council in favor of the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, the purpose of which is to shield women from discrimination at work on the basis of the decisions they make in favor of their reproductive health. However, a the recent confirmation hearing, he insisted that the measure he voted for in D.C. would not have meant that employers could discriminate against workers based on their reproductive choices. In a back-and-forth with Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Price stated he did not think employers ought to be able to or are currently allowed to discriminate against someone based on their health status or the medications (including birth control) that they use.
But in fact, as the National Women’s Law Center pointed out, Price is wrong about his assertion that gender discrimination on the basis of reproductive choices is a thing of the past. The truth is there are many recent examples of cases in which women were targeted for unfavorable action in employment due to their reproductive choices. To name a few:
- A woman in Indiana was fired in 2011 after administrators at the school discovered she and her husband were using in vitro fertilization treatments to become pregnant. Jurors later awarded her $2 million in a gender discrimination lawsuit.
- A woman in Ohio was fired from her job as a Catholic school teacher in 2010 when school officials found out she was not married, yet had become pregnant through artificial insemination. Jurors awarded her $170,000 in an anti-discrimination lawsuit.
- A woman in Wisconsin was fired from jobs teaching at two Catholic schools after it became known she and her husband used in vitro fertilization to get pregnant in 2004. Three years, later both sides reach an out-of-court settlement.
- A woman who was pregnant, unmarried – and had no plans to get married – was fired from her job at a New York Catholic school. She was later found to have been the target of illegal pregnancy discrimination.
- After a law in Wisconsin passed that required employee insurance plans to include birth control, the Catholic church
- A kindergarten teacher at a Christian school in Michigan was called into a meeting with school officials to ask why she was four months pregnant when she only got married two months earlier, noting that premarital sex is forbidden by the school. She was fired.
In 2014, there were five states – Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and Ohio (plus D.C.) – that considered some type of bill that would bar discrimination based on reproductive choices. Those measures passed in New York and D.C. In 2015, six states considered anti-discrimination bills that involved reproductive rights. Only two, New York and Maine, passed. In 2016, four states considered similar bills, though only one – Delaware – was ultimately passed.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Actually, Tom Price, Women Have Been Fired For Their Reproductive Choices, Jan. 18, 2017, By Anna Almendrala, The Huffington Post
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