California Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have prohibited religiously affiliated institutions from taking employment action against non-ministerial employees for their reproductive health decisions including “the use of any drug, device, or medical service.”
According to Section 1 of AB 569, the bill was intended to protect the “right to privacy” of employees of religious institutions other those defined as “ministerial employees” in the concurring opinion of Justice Alito in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC (2012) 565 U.S. 171, 199. Justice Alito had identified them as an “employee who leads a religious organization, conducts worship services or important religious ceremonies or rituals, or serves as a messenger or teacher of its faith.”
Religious groups including the California Catholic Conference and California Family Council opposed the bill arguing that they should be able to make employment decisions based on their employees’ personal adherence to their stated reproductive values. This bill would have prohibited them from having faith-based codes of conduct that could discipline or terminate employees who became pregnant or sought abortions.
In his October 15, 2017, veto message, Governor Brown stated that the bill conflicted with the religious institution exemption within the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.