Fighting Maternity Leave Discrimination In The Workplace In New Jersey
When a qualified employee is pregnant, they are guaranteed a certain amount of maternity leave time and job security under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Unfortunately, it is common for employers to violate this law through pregnancy discrimination or denying them the leave they are entitled to, among other infractions.
Maternity leave discrimination often overlaps with other forms of employment discrimination, including:
- Pregnancy Discrimination
- Gender Discrimination
- Marital Status Discrimination
- Pumping & Breastfeeding in the Workplace
- Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
With offices in Red Bank, NJ and Marlton, NJ, McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. has experience in representing employees who have been denied their maternity leave protected under the FMLA. If you have been the target of maternity leave discrimination, your employer may be responsible to compensate you for economic damages and your pain and suffering. Our experienced New Jersey maternity leave discrimination lawyers can get you the compensation you deserve.
Maternity Leave Protections Under the FMLA
Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), eligible pregnant employees of covered employers are entitled to maternity leave. This federal law provides eligible employees unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 12 weeks. For example, new parents with newborns may take leave under the FMLA.
Although there are specific conditions and requirements to be eligible for maternity leave, the FMLA ensures that employees will continue to have healthcare benefits and job protection throughout their period of absence from work.
State Protections for Maternity Leave in NJ
New Jersey has its own parental leave law, the Paid Family Leave Act, signed in 2009 and greatly expanded in 2019. As of July 1, 2020, eligible employees are able to receive 85% of their wages for up to 12 weeks to care for a new child under the NJ Paid Family Leave Insurance Program (FLI).
Am I Eligible for Maternity Leave?
To be eligible for maternity leave under the FMLA, employees must have worked a minimum total of 1,250 hours for their employer. Under FMLA, employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius are required to provide 12 unpaid work weeks of maternity leave to eligible employees annually.
The medical conditions protected under the FMLA are specific and include:
- Birth of a child and time to bond with the newborn.
- Placement and bonding time with an adopted child or foster care child.
Job Security During Maternity Leave
Upon return to work from maternity leave, the employee is entitled to their previous position without demotion or salary reduction. If the position is no longer available, the employer must offer the employee a position similar in salary, benefits, and status. If a layoff or reduction in force took place while the employee was out on leave, the worker would still be eligible for the same rights and protections as those employees that were not on leave.
Maternity Leave and Pregnancy Discrimination
Pregnancy discrimination is one of the most common forms of employment discrimination in New Jersey. In 2019, $22.4 million was paid out in pregnancy discrimination charges filed with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) in the United States. Pregnancy discrimination can occur in a variety of ways, including harassment, failure to accommodate medical appointments, pay disparity, refusal to hire, refusal to provide leave, or retaliation for taking leave or becoming pregnant.
Denial of maternity leave is a common form of pregnancy discrimination. This includes refusing maternity leave or time off, terminating or disciplining an employee for taking leave, or failing to hire new mothers back to the same or a similar position with the same salary and benefits.
Occupations and workplaces where pregnancy discrimination is common include:
- Doctors’ Offices And Healthcare Fields
- Housekeeping And Janitorial Workers
- Administrative Assistants
- Dental Offices
- Bars and Restaurants
Examples of Maternity Leave Discrimination
Firing an employee for taking maternity leave is an obvious violation of the FMLA, but there are many other types of violations that employers can make that are not as clear cut.
- Disciplining employees for taking leave for a legitimate reason.
- Discontinuing health insurance while the employee is on leave.
- Excessive contact with the employee about work-related issues while on maternity leave.
- Pressuring the employee to return to work early.
- Demoting an employee who returns from leave or offering lower salary or benefits.
- Misclassifying an employee as a ‘key employee’ and claiming that they are not required to be reinstated on the basis of economic harm to the company.
- Delaying reinstatement to an employee’s position after they return from maternity leave.
If any of these situations has happened to you, or you feel that your maternity leave rights have otherwise been violated, contact our law firm as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Retaliation Due To Maternity Leave Discrimination
It is not uncommon for employers to unlawfully retaliate when employees take maternity leave. Thankfully, New Jersey state and federal laws exist to protect individuals against retaliatory acts by their employer for protected activity such as taking maternity leave. Retaliation can include termination, demotion, unfair disciplinary measures, or any other unfavorable action. If you are subjected to workplace retaliation for putting your child first, the FMLA lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. may be able to protect your career.
Experienced New Jersey Employment Discrimination Lawyers Can Help You
If you are an eligible employee and you have been denied your maternity leave rights under the FMLA, or faced retaliation in the workplace for making a complaint, contact the lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. today. We have offices in Red Bank, NJ and Marlton, NJ and serve clients throughout the state. We can discuss your situation with you and help you determine the best course of action to get the compensation you deserve.