Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Protections
Protections for Pregnant Employees
New Jersey employment law provides some of the strongest protections for pregnant works in the United States. It prohibits discrimination against pregnant employees. It mandates that New Jersey employers must make reasonable accommodations so that pregnant employees can continue to work during pregnancy. New Jersey employment law prohibits retaliation against employees who request accommodations or employees who object to the treatment of pregnant employees. New Jersey employment law also bars forcing pregnant employees to accept accommodations which are less than reasonable or making them take leave unless it is a medical necessary.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination is the primary legal protection for pregnant employees. The Law Against Discrimination makes it illegal for employers to discharge or refuse to hire employees because they are pregnant, or to discriminate in any way against pregnant employees.
The Law Against Discrimination also prohibits employers from retaliating against anyone for opposing pregnancy discrimination, seeking legal advice about pregnancy discrimination or their rights and protections, or sharing information with an attorney or a government agency. Employers cannot retaliate against anyone who has filed a complaint about pregnancy discrimination, or testified or assisted in any legal proceeding about pregnancy discrimination. They may also not intimidate, coerce, interfere with or threaten anyone who does so, or who helps another person do so.
In addition, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination requires employers to make reasonable accommodations if a pregnant employee requests upon the advice of a physician. Reasonable accommodations include periodic rest, job restructuring, bathroom breaks, breaks for increased water intake, light duty or assistance with manual labor, modified work schedules, and temporary reassignment to less strenuous or hazardous work. An employer may not retaliate against an employee who requests accommodation.
However, employers do not need to grant accommodations which might cause “undue hardship.” In reviewing whether an accommodation would cause an employer undue hardship, courts consider: the overall size of the employer's business; the size, composition and structure of its workforce; the number and type of its facilities; its budget; the nature of its operations; the nature and cost of the required accommodation (availability of tax credits, deductions, and outside funding must be considered); and the extent that an accommodation would require the waiver of an essential requirement of the employee’s job rather than a tangential or non-business necessity issue.
All of New Jersey’s protections against pregnancy discrimination also apply to unions and employment agencies.
Federal employment law also provides significant protections to pregnant New Jersey employees. For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits gender discrimination, and expressly includes within this protection discrimination because of “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions”. Likewise, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act mandates that employers must make reasonable accommodations when requested by pregnant employees, and bars retaliation, harassment, and mandatory leave.
Protections for Breastfeeding Employees
New Jersey and federal employment law likewise protect employees who are breastfeeding.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination mandates that employers must give reasonable accommodations for employees who are breastfeeding. These include reasonable breaks with a suitable location (which cannot be a toilet stall) for the employee to express milk. The employer bears the burden of demonstrating that such an accommodation would pose an “undue hardship” to the employer. Employees are likewise protected from retaliation.
Federal employment law provides also protects breastfeeding employees. The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in December 2022, by the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act (also known as the “PUMP Act”), now requiring that employers with more than 50 employees provide reasonable accommodations for breastfeeding employees for 1 year (there are several exceptions which apply to air carriers and some small employers). The PUMP Act expanded the Federal protections already provided in the Affordable Care Act ( “Obamacare”).
Advantages of New Jersey Over Federal Employment Law
The New Jersey protections for pregnant and breastfeeding employees and New Jersey courts offer a stronger avenue of relief for employees. For instance, New Jersey employment law at two years has a longer statute of limitation than federal law, and New Jersey courts provide far fewer procedural hurdles than federal court. New Jersey courts’ interpretations of the relevant statutes have also consistently been more broad than those of the Federal courts. For this reason, employees are generally wise to file their employment litigation in New Jersey courts, while for these very same reasons employers often seek to have the suits removed to federal court or arbitration.
Our New Jersey employment lawyers represent employees in all aspects of New Jersey employment law, including failure to accommodate pregnant or breastfeeding employees, and pregnancy and breastfeeding discrimination. Call (973) 890-0004 or fill out the contact form on this page to schedule a consultation with one of our New Jersey employment attorneys. We can help.