NJ Employer Alert: Gov. Christie Signs Pregnancy Discrimination Bill into Law

February 24, 2014
« Next Previous »

Pregnancy and childbirth are now protected categories under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). Gov. Chris Christie signed the amendment to the NJLAD on January 21, 2014, and such change was effective immediately. New Jersey is the latest state in the country to strengthen protections against pregnancy discrimination, joining Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, and Texas. Several large cities, including New York City, have also enacted similar employment laws. While federal laws such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) both protect pregnant workers, these latest state and municipal law enactments are generally more comprehensive. The NJLAD not only prohibits pregnancy discrimination, but also imposes new workplace accommodation requirements on employers that go well beyond normal disability accommodations. Below are several key provisions of the new law:
  • Employers cannot treat a pregnant woman in a manner less favorable than other persons not “affected by pregnancy” with similar ability or inability to work. “Affected by pregnancy” refers to women who are pregnant and women who have medical conditions relating to pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Employers must make available reasonable accommodation for pregnancy-related needs when requested by the employee with the advice of her physician. Examples may include breaks to use the bathroom or for increased water intake, modified work schedules, and assistance with manual labor.
  • Employers must provide such accommodations unless they can demonstrate that doing so would pose an undue hardship. Factors that may be taken into consideration when making such a determination include the overall size of the employer’s business, the type of operations, the nature and cost of the accommodation needed, and the extent to which the accommodation would require eliminating a pregnant employee’s essential job functions.
  • Employers are prohibited from penalizing workers in terms, conditions or privileges of employment for using the accommodations or, when accommodations are not feasible, for taking time away from work required by the pregnancy, as certified by a physician of the employee taking into account the condition of the employee and the job requirements.
New Jersey employers should carefully review and revise their workplace policies and procedures in light of the NJLAD amendment. Given the potential penalties for noncompliance, it is also imperative to train managers and human resources personnel regarding the new obligations. If you have any questions about the NJLAD amendment or would like to discuss changes that may be required to your company’s employment policies and procedures, please contact me, Gary Young, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck Labor and Employment Law attorney with whom you work.