Friday, April 02, 2021

Court Upholds NY Law Barring Discrimination Against Employees Because Of Reproductive Health Decisions

In Slattery v. Cuomo, (ND NY, March 31, 2021), a New York federal district court dismissed free exercise, free speech, freedom of association and vagueness challenges to a New York Labor Law §203-e  which prohibits employers from discriminating or taking retaliatory action against an employee because of the person's reproductive health decision making. The law was challenged by a pro-life crisis pregnancy center which required its employees to agree with, adhere to and convey the Catholic view on abortion and sexual relations outside of marriage. The court concluded that the law does not target the Catholic religion in violation of the free exercise clause. Rejecting plaintiffs' free speech challenge, the court said in part:

Section 203-e does not serve to limit any of Plaintiffs’ advocacy against abortion, promotion of certain religious views, and public arguments for particular versions of sexual morality. The statute does not prevent the Plaintiffs, who provide medical information to pregnant women, from telling those women that they should not get abortions, urging them not to use contraception, or telling them about Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs. The statute simply prohibits employers from taking employment action based on the reproductive health decisions of an employee or potential employee. Hiring, firing, or refusing to hire an employee is conduct, not speech, and the law does not implicate Plaintiffs’ First-Amendment rights in that.