It made for riveting television. No, I’m not talking about the latest World Cup match, although I’m sure that was riveting too. I’m referring to Monday’s public hearing at the D.C. Council on the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 where NWLC’s Senior Counsel and Director of State Reproductive Policy Gretchen Borchelt testified in support of the bill. In case you missed the live-stream, we are here to make sure you’re all caught up and water-cooler ready.
As we mentioned in an earlier post, women around the country are being fired or threatened with firing for using fertility treatments to get pregnant, having sex while unmarried or using birth control. In response to this alarming trend, the D.C. Council, along with legislatures in New York, Michigan, and North Carolina, have introduced bills to ensure that no man or woman is discriminated against by their boss based on their personal reproductive health decisions. The New York bill recently passed the State Assembly and is now pending in the New York State Senate. At yesterday’s hearing, the D.C. Council heard from various groups voicing support, and opposition, to the D.C. bill. Here’s what you need to know from the hearing:
- NWLC strongly supports this legislation. Gretchen discussed the national scope of the problem, highlighting examples of women fired for their decisions about sex, contraception and pregnancy. For example, she told the story of Kelly Romenesko, who was fired after she and her husband used artificial insemination to get pregnant. Gretchen also pointed out that while the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977 already provides strong protections for women against employment discrimination, employers have found loopholes in the laws and have gotten away with firing women in these kinds of situations. This bill will make sure no gaps exist in DC law, and that women – and men – will be explicitly protected for their reproductive health decisions.
- This kind of discrimination happens in D.C. too. Katie Breslin of Catholics for Choice told the stories of two Catholic women, Margaret and Katie, who used to work for Catholic employers in D.C. Katie had to pay out of pocket for birth control because her employer refused to provide coverage and Margaret constantly feared retribution for her reproductive health decisions.
- Some employers want a free pass to discriminate against their employees. The Archdiocese of Washington testified against the bill arguing that they should be able to fire an employee who violates church principles. Religious beliefs do not give organizations license to discriminate against employees who hold their own beliefs.
- D.C. Councilmembers David Grosso and Tommy Wells voiced their continued support for the bill. The Councilmembers in attendance at the hearing listened carefully and took seriously the testimony of all who were there. Councilmember at-large David Grosso, who introduced the bill back in May, affirmed that he stands by the rights of D.C. women and their families. Councilmember Tommy Wells expressed his belief that this bill furthers a compelling interest in protecting against discrimination in the workplace. “I’ve thought a lot about this,” Wells said, “but today gives me a new opportunity to think about it more, and I am more convinced that there is a compelling government interest to protect the individual rights of an employee… it’s why we have the Human Rights office to begin with.”
- You can voice your support for the D.C. bill too! The Council asked for comment – they want to hear from D.C. residents about whether you think bosses should be able to make employees choose between their jobs and their reproductive freedom. Go here and follow the steps to share your thoughts, comments and support for this necessary legislation.