Proposed St. Louis City Bill Adds Provisions Regarding Discrimination in Pregnancy and Reproductive Health Decisions

A bill has been introduced in front of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen seeking to amend the City’s current anti-discrimination law to protect pregnant women from discrimination in employment and housing. The bill also would prevent employers and landlords from discriminating against individuals based on their “reproductive health decisions,” a provision which has drawn controversy.

The bill’s sponsors say it is necessary to protect pregnant women and women who utilize birth control or choose to get an abortion against adverse action by an employer. They further argue that women should not be denied housing based on their pregnancy status or reproductive health decisions.

Opponents of the bill say it may improperly impose upon an employer’s/landlord’s religious freedoms and is vaguely written, which will lead to expensive litigation that must be defended by the City and funded by the taxpayers.

Pregnant employees (and those with medical conditions related to pregnancy) already are protected against discrimination in employment under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees, and the Missouri Human Rights Act, which covers employers with six or more employees. No federal law prevents employers or landlords from considering an individual’s “reproductive health decisions,” however, which are defined in the bill as “any decision related to the use or intended use of a particular drug, device, or medical service, including the use or intended use of contraception or fertility control or the planned or intended initiation or termination of a pregnancy.” A bill with similar language was introduced in the United States House of Representatives in 2015, but it never passed.

Given the controversy and the untested nature of such legislation, it seems clear that the opponents of the bill are correct about one thing – litigation is sure to follow.

The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters for over sixty years, and are available to discuss these issues and others.  As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.