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Friday, June 29, 2012

Arizona Employers Want to Ask Employees About Sex Lives, Contraceptives

I sometimes comment that Florida is the center of weirdness in the universe, and that point is hard to refute when we house face-eating zombies and giant anacondas. However, Arizona keeps trying to give us a run for our money on the weirdometer. Arizona legislators proposed a bill recently that would allow employers, if they so choose, to require female employees to provide proof that they weren't using contraceptives for purposes of, erm, sex.

That's not quite what actually passed and got signed, but Arizona now has a law that allows employers to refuse to provide insurance coverage for birth control pills that aren't issued for medical reasons.

Rep. Debbie Lesko's version wanted to provide an exemption for any employer who claimed religious beliefs or moral objections to contraceptives. The final version narrowed this exemption to any entity whose articles of incorporation "clearly state that it is a religiously motivated organization and whose religious beliefs are central to the organization's operating principles."

The original version also let employers mandate the employee provide proof to them, but the signed version apparently only allows insurance companies to collect the proof of medical necessity.

I won't even research what Arizona is saying about insurance coverage of Viagra.  If any of my faithful readers know, I'd be curious. I'm willing to bet that men don't have to jump through the same hoops as women. But maybe I'm being overly pessimistic.

I can think of quite a few problems employers who do ask about employee contraceptives might run into. Sex discrimination, sexual stereotyping, privacy issues, HIPAA violations, disability discrimination - the list goes on. It will be interesting to watch what happens with this very weird law.


  1. Eh, it's limited to people who work for religious organizations that have moral opposition to contraceptives. That means, pretty much Catholics. And it doesn't mean you can't get contraceptives it just means that the church doesn't have to pay for them.

    I think it's a bigger problem that people even consider forcing a church to pay for something that they consider immoral.

  2. Suzanne, if it's an actual religious organization, I might say okay. But the proposed legislation applied to anyone with any type of religious objection. And it was going to let the employer demand proof from the employee. It was a stupid proposal and I'm glad it didn't pass that way. The existing law is also problematic and I predict lots of litigation on it. So yay for the Arizona employment lawyers and a sad day for Arizona employees.

  3. Still? Contraceptives aren't a life and death thing. I'mm opposed to any legislation that requires any particular drug be covered.

    Personally, I've worked for a company in the past that didn't cover contraceptives at all, regardless of the reason for them. I paid for them myself and I lived to tell the tale. It wasn't a religious organization (it was a grocery store chain) and the decision was undoubtedly financial not religious.

    1. I'm with Donna on this one. Such laws are intrusive - why should a private individual be able to dictate whether or not birth control is covered by an insurance plan because of their personal religious beliefs? What about the employee's beliefs? Where will this stop? There are pharmacists who refuse to fill birth control prescriptions because it's against their religious beliefs. This is just a another not-so-veiled attack on women's reproductive health choices. And it's great you could pay for your contraceptives - but not everyone can afford to pay for birth control on their own, and there aren't always clinics like Planned Parenthood available to help.

  4. Thanks KF! I'm glad you enjoyed the post.


I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.