On January 21, 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation in to law amending New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) by increasing protection for employees based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. In fact, the LAD now expressly designates pregnancy as a protected class under the law. The attorneys at Mashel Law believe this change in law to be of particular importance given about 75 percent of the estimated 68 million women working in this country will become pregnant at some point in their lives.
Pregnant women cannot be treated differently than other employees. Disparate treatment is demonstrated when a member of "a protected group is shown to have been singled out and treated less favorably than others similarly situated on the basis of an impermissible criterion" under antidiscrimination laws. EEOC v. Metal Serv. Co., 892 F.2d 341, 347 (3d Cir.1990); See also Castellano v. Linden Bd. of Educ., 79 N.J. 407 (discrimination against women because of pregnancy violates New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination).
As amended, the LAD requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee based upon pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, including recovery from childbirth, when the employee requests the accommodation based on her physician’s advice. Pregnancy is defined as “pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, including recovery from childbirth.”
Reasonable accommodations required under the new law are to be viewed liberally and include bathroom breaks, breaks for increased water intake, periodic rest, assistance with manual labor, job restructuring or modified work schedules, and temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous work. Absent the employer demonstrating undue hardship on its business operations, these accommodations must be provided. Factors supporting an undue hardship claim may be:
- the size of the employer including the number of employees, revenue, and facilities present onsite;
- the nature of the employer’s business including the makeup of its workforce;
- the type and cost of the accommodation requested, bearing in mind the availability of taking into consideration the availability of tax deductions and credits; and
- the extent to which the accommodation would require, if any, a modification or elimination of an essential function of the employee’s job.
Importantly, employers are prohibited from treating pregnant women less favorably than others with similar work abilities who are not pregnant. The LAD now also forbids employers from retaliating against an employee in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment for requesting or using an accommodation.
As is the case with any other violation of LAD, an aggrieved employee may pursue a full range of legal and equitable relief, including compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement, and attorneys’ fees.
In addition to the LAD, federal law protects against pregnancy discrimination. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) expressly forbids discrimination against pregnant women in all its forms including hiring, firing, pay, promotion, and other benefits. However, the PDA only covers pregnant women who are working for companies employing 15 or more employees.
If you believe you have been or are currently being treated differently by your employer because you are pregnant, call the experienced employment lawyers at Mashel Law (732) 536-6161 for help or fill out the contact form on this page. Mashel Law located in Marlboro, New Jersey, is dedicated exclusively to protecting the rights of employees.