In January 2014, the New Jersey legislature took a big step in protecting female employees by adding pregnancy to the list of protected classes that fall within the purview of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).
As a result of the amendment, it is now unlawful for any New Jersey employer to subject an employee to disparate treatment, hostility or retaliation because of an employee’s pregnancy. Pursuant to the statute, “pregnancy” includes medical conditions and complications relating to pregnancy and the childbirth itself. In other words, under the NJLAD, an employee’s pregnancy, pregnancy related complications or childbirth should not have an unfavorable impact on an employee or otherwise cause the employer to take adverse employment action against the employee (i.e., hire, fire, or promote an employee). Pregnant employees should not be treated any differently than non-pregnant employees. As a corollary, pregnant employees are entitled to reasonable accommodations. The NJLAD provides a non-exhaustive list of accommodations, such as bathroom and water breaks; lifting restrictions; and modified scheduling and job duties.
So what are some common examples of pregnancy discrimination? Pregnancy related discrimination cases typically involve employers that pay pregnant women, or women of childbearing potential, less compensation. This may include failing to promote such employees or provide pregnancy employees with equal opportunity for advance. In addition, during the interview process, many employees attempt to screen out women who are pregnant or likely to become pregnant in the near future. Furthermore, a common case may involve a boss or manager that subjected a pregnant employee to increased scrutiny, criticism and harassment. Such conduct may include verbal or physical abuse, refusing or discouraging pregnancy leave, and changing the responsibilities/demoting a pregnant employee. Worse, some employers terminate or lay off pregnant employees (or an employee who has recently had a child) to protect the bottom-line and retaliate against an employee who takes maternity leave or complaints of mistreatment.
While New Jersey prohibits discrimination on the basis of “pregnancy,” currently there is no state law that protects an employee’s right to express milk in the workplace (i.e., breastfeed or pump breast milk). Currently, New Jersey law merely states that “a mother shall be entitled to breast feed her baby in any location of a place of public accommodation, resort or amusement wherein the mother is otherwise permitted.” With respect to employees, Federal Law (the Affordable Care Act)—which only applies to employers with 50 or more employees—requires employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth” and “provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion.” To date, New Jersey does not have a similar law on the books.
Late last year, however, the New Jersey Legislature introduced a proposed amendment to the NJLAD, which would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees that breastfeed. Similar to the NJLAD’s pregnancy amendment and federal law, the new law would require all New Jersey employers to provide breastfeeding women reasonable break time and access to a private room (that is not a bathroom) to express milk.
New Jersey Employment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Counsel Employers and Employees Regarding Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, Pumping in the Workplace.
Our New Jersey employment lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. routinely represent both employers and employees in pregnancy, breastfeeding, and pumping employment discrimination matters. With offices located in Red Bank and Marlton, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout the state. To learn how we can help, contact us at 732-842-6500 (Red Bank), 856-985-9800 (Marlton) or complete our online contact form today.