Discrimination against employees because they are pregnant is prohibited under New Jersey, New York and federal law. However, pregnancy discrimination continues in today’s work places.
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) continues to find that pregnancy discrimination is increasing. For example, the EEOC has recently received the most complaints of pregnancy discrimination in its history.
New Jersey Employment law prohibits pregnancy discrimination. The Law Against Discrimination, while not mentioning pregnancy per se, had long been interpreted to prohibit discrimination because of an employee’s “sex.” The courts have ruled that pregnancy discrimination violates the Law Against Discrimination's prohibition on sex discrimination.
In January 2014, however, the New Jersey Legislature passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, also known as the Pregnancy Act. The New Jersey Pregnancy Act makes it unlawful for employers to treat a female employee who it knows or should know is pregnant less favorably than other employees. The employer must also give the pregnant employee reasonable accommodations to facilitate her ability to work while she is pregnant. An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for becoming pregnant or for requesting reasonable accommodations for her pregnancy.
Federal law also prohibits pregnancy discrimination. In 1978, Congress amended Title VII of the Civil Right’s Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination based on pregnancy in the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act or because of a medical condition which is related to her pregnancy. The Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act also provides that employer health plans must cover pregnancy. However, these claims are only applicable to employers with fifty or more employees.
The New York State’s Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Right’s Law bar discrimination against employees because of pregnancy by employers of four or more employees. New Jersey and federal employment law also mandate pregnancy - related leave. The Federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) provides twelve weeks of unpaid leave for employees who have worked for the last twelve months for at least 1,250 hours for employers with fifty or more employees to care for their newborn baby or newly adopted child. New Jersey’s Family Leave Act provides equivalent coverage, while reducing the hour requirement to 1,000.
New Jersey is at the forefront of employee protection with the New Jersey Paid Family Leave Act. It is only the third state to offer paid family leave. The Family Leave Act provides that employees must receive six weeks of paid disability leave to care for a newborn or a newly adopted child. The Paid Family Leave Act covers all employees of all employers regardless of the number of employees. However, the pay during the paid leave is not paid by the employer itself, but rather by the state as disability compensation.
Pregnancy discrimination covers not only firing, but also refusal to hire, failure to grant leave, and demotion – any adverse employment action, in fact. Moreover, both state and federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit harassment because of an employee’s pregnancy, regardless of the number of employees the employer employs action, in fact..
McLaughlin & Nardi’s New Jersey employment lawyers are dedicated to fighting this cancer, and fighting for the rights of the victims of pregnancy discrimination.
For more information please e-mail us or call (973) 890-0004.