16 September 2013
David Gray, Senior Vice President for Finance and Business
Susan Basso, Vice President for Human Resources
Penn State University
University Park, Pennsylvania
Dear Mr. Gray and Ms. Basso:
According to an article in the 10 September Centre Daily Times and the 15 September New York Times, a health risk assessment questionnaire that is part of Penn State’s new employee wellness program asks women employees whether they plan to get pregnant in the next year. If the employee refuses to disclose this she is penalized $100 for every month she fails to yield up the information.
By requiring women employees to disclose information about their sex lives, Penn State violates their privacy rights and likely violates their rights under federal law (Title VII and The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Title IX, privacy law, and equal protection). Highmark, Penn State’s health care provider, targets women employees by imposing on them a special burden of disclosure about their sexual intent. Are male employees required to disclose their intended sexual activity over the year? To avoid paying a fine, is a woman employee forced to lie? And if she has no plans but becomes pregnant accidentally, does that increase her insurance premiums?
In a culture where women’s bodies are socially policed from early childhood until well past menopause, it is particularly unethical to force a female employee to reveal her reproductive intentions to a corporation whose interest is in making profits—an interest that directly conflicts with the woman’s interest in retaining sovereignty over her body. We members of the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status of Women urge you in the strongest possible terms to direct Highmark to cease this practice immediately.
Hilde Lindeman (signed)
Chair, the American Philosophical Association Committee on the Status of Women