Bill would ban questions, discrimination over contraceptive use

LANSING — Employers in Michigan would be barred from asking employees or job candidates about their use of contraceptives under legislation introduced by Senate Democrats.

The Employee Contraceptive Privacy Act, as the bill would be known, also would prevent employers from discriminating against employees or potential hires if they choose not to disclose whether they use birth control or if they file a complaint alleging their employer violated the act.

Employees or job applicants would be allowed to file a civil suit seeking damages or injunctive relief.

“Your boss has a say in what you do when you’re on the clock — not when you’re at the doctor’s office,” Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “There is no reason an employer should be involved in anyone’s health care decisions, and this legislation makes that clear.”

Senate Bill 397 was introduced this month and has been referred to the Senate’s government operations committee.

Angela Wittrock, Ananich’s spokeswoman, said the bill is in response to the 2014 Supreme Court ruling on Hobby Lobby, which allows some family-owned companies to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage.

Separately, Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-Meridian Township, and Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores, have introduced bills in both chambers to repeal a law that requires women to purchase additional insurance coverage for abortions with their health insurance policies.

The Legislature approved the law in December 2013. Right to Life of Michigan initiated the legislation through a petition drive, which made it immune from a veto by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Hertel’s bill, Senate Bill 63, was introduced in January and has been pending in the Senate’s insurance committee. Roberts’ bill will be House Bill 4764.

Capitol tour

Michigan’s Capitol is getting the Google treatment.

Novi-based LunaTech 3D plans to photograph the entire building — inside, out and possibly from the air — as part of a virtual tour that could go live later this year.

The Michigan Capitol Commission, which oversees the 136-year-old statehouse, awarded the $9,950 contract.

Soon, trekking to Lansing won’t be the only way to visit the Capitol, which LunaTech CEO Doug Willett says will be great for school groups and other far-flung visitors.

LunaTech, founded in 2008, uses Google Inc.’s Street View technology to give virtual life to restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

The company will use its Inneract software with the tour, which links visitors to videos and other interactive features about the location, Willett said.

It’s part of an effort to open up the Capitol to more visitors, both physical and virtual, said John Truscott, a Lansing public relations executive and vice chairman of the Capitol Commission. The group is finishing up a photography schedule so LunaTech can get to work.

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Mon, 06/22/2015 - 8:49am
While I agree employers should not discriminate against a woman (or a man!) for use of birth control, I suspect the motivation might be more likely to be trying to assess if the woman will be gone for pregnancy or maternity leave issues. Don't misunderstand, this should also not be cause for discrimination, but so often we view things through our own lenses and project evil intent upon others. It seems like our current social mores prompt and expect fights rather than calm, quiet, reasonable discussions. It would be great if we could all grow up a bit.
Lola Johnson
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 1:21pm
Trying to decode legislators' intent can be complicated. So can legislation. Can Catholic Social Services demand that their employees refrain from birth control because of the church's stand?? Can a Jewish employer refuse to hire anyone who is not circumsized? If your boss is a Christian Scientist, can he fire you for taking medication? Bosses have a right to expect loyalty, skill, and reliability, but one's medical decisions are a private matter, and should be thus.
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 10:28am
I am appalled that employers would try to get around the very clear guidance from the EEO and from HIPPA that a potential employee's personal life, including medical treatment or conditions that will not affect on-the-job performance and plans for child-bearing are completely out of bounds for employer questions or decisions regarding employment of any prospective or current worker. Merely asking such a question is grounds for filing a Federal complaint, unless the potential employer is a religion or a religiously-sponsored organization. I'm happy that Michigan's legislators want to protect the absolute right that employees already have to privacy about their medical issues, but this law is and should be completely unnecessary.
Bob Balwinski
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 2:57pm
Anna, I am in complete agreement!!
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 12:52pm
I'm having a hard time deciding whether this is a good start to undoing the damage caused by Hobby Lobby, of it's a total cop-out... The only thing this law seems to say is that your employer can't ask you if or what kind BC you use... It doesn't sound like it would stop your employer from just refusing to include BC in their health insurance plan. Really glad they're working to get rid of the Rape Insurance law.
Nancy Brimha
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 2:42pm
There is a gray area where an employee is doing work with heavy lifting or chemical exposures that would be dangerous for a developing child.
Wed, 06/24/2015 - 11:39pm
Then wouldn't they want everyone on birth control so there isn't a child developing? I mean, that's what I would think...