Senate Bill 523, also known as the “Contraceptive Equity Act of 2022” and considered an expansion of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on an applicant’s or employee’s reproductive health decision-making.

When this law goes into effect on January 1, 2024, it will also call for changes to healthcare service plans offered by employers related to coverage and deductibles, including in instances of reproductive health decision-making (ex., contraceptives, vasectomies, and other similar services or procedures).

SB-523 defines “reproductive health decision-making” as the decision to use or access a particular drug, device, product, or medical service for reproductive health, which includes, but is not limited to, voluntary tubal ligation and vasectomy services and procedures. Under the FEHA, reproductive decision-making may also fall under the already established definition of “sex,” which currently includes, but is not limited to, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding (and any condition related to pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding), and a person’s gender identity and gender expression.

Application: Impact on Employers

With these changes in 2024, employers must update the language in relevant policies contained in their employee handbooks, among other relevant policy and employment-related document(s), to include “reproductive health decision-making” when referring to protected classes or groups. Therefore, it is also strongly encouraged that employers begin planning for and making these updates now, in anticipation of the law becoming effective, to ensure a smooth transition in implementing the specifically affected policies and procedures when the time comes.

This bill will also change healthcare service plans and contracts offered by employers. Any plan issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2024, must provide coverage for contraceptives, vasectomies, and other related services. In addition to this coverage expansion, the bill will also strictly forbid imposing on employees a deductible or any other kind of cost-sharing requirement related to such services and procedures.