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D.C. City Council Passes Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Bill

D.C. City Council Passes Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Bill

December 18, 2014 — The D.C. City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure (B20-0790) aimed at preventing employers from interfering with workers' access to abortion, contraception and other reproductive health services and coverage, Politico Pro reports (Winfield Cunningham, Politico Pro, 12/17).

Council member David Grosso introduced the measure, called the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, in May, a few months after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. The court later ruled in the case that certain closely held corporations can refuse to cover contraception in their employer-sponsored health plans if their owners have religious objections.

"An employer should not be able to tell their employee whether or not they can access certain kinds of health care," Grosso said in May.

The measure now heads to Mayor Vincent Gray (D), who is expected to sign it into law.

Measure Details

The measure would amend Washington, D.C.'s Human Rights Act of 1977 to include language prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health decisions and from limiting the extent of employees' reproductive health coverage and services.

Specifically, the measure states, "An employer or employment agency shall not discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of or on the basis of the individual's or a dependent's reproductive health decision making, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service, because of or on the basis of an employer's personal beliefs about such services."

The D.C. Council on Wednesday amended the measure to explicitly state that it applies to both men and women (Gryboski, Christian Post, 12/17).

According to Politico Pro, the measure would apply to all employers, whether or not they hold themselves out as religious (Politico Pro, 12/17).

The D.C. Council acknowledged concerns from the district's Office of the Attorney General about the lack of a "ministerial exemption" to the measure. However, the council concluded that the measure did not present First Amendment concerns because such an exemption likely would be "read into" the law upon enactment (Christian Post, 12/17).