New California Employment Law Could Protect Women Who Use Birth Control

A new bill passed in September will make it so that employers cannot take action against workers that make reproductive health decisions the employers disagree with. The bill, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA), protects workers who elect to use birth control, get an abortion or conceive a child through in-vitro fertilization from termination.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, the sponsor of the bill, says that no woman should lose her job for exercising her right to bodily autonomy.


In addition to preventing wrongful termination, the RHNDA does not allow employers to force employees to sign codes of conduct that involve reproductive health decisions. This means that employers cannot make an employee agree not to use contraception, not to get an abortion or not to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage. Victims of termination due to breaking one such code of conduct include financial aid specialist Teri James, allegedly fired from San Diego Christian College for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Many churches, religious groups and other organizations of faith require such codes of conduct, though at least 16 faith groups signed a letter supporting the RHNDA.

A similar measure passed in Missouri now faces a court challenge from faith groups arguing the decision is a violation of their religious freedom. In California, the Senate Judiciary Committee analyzed the RHNDA and found it to be constitutional under the Free Exercise Clause back in 1990, during the case of Employment Division v. Smith.

Governor Jerry Brown now has until October 15 to either sign or veto the proposal.

To be fired for taking control of one’s own reproductive health is not just about discrimination. In Teri James’ case, she not only lost her income, but also her health insurance, making it more difficult to take care of herself during pregnancy. She lost her community and her career. If you believe you are suffering a similar fate due to an unlawful termination related to your reproductive health, discuss your case with an employment discrimination attorney.

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