Accommodations and Leaves of Absence
The law sometimes requires employers to go out of their way to help an employee in a particular situation. We refer to these situations as accommodations for the employee. Generally, employers are required to provide employees with four types of accommodations: accommodations for disabilities, accommodations for pregnancy, accommodations for religious obligations, and family and medical leaves of absence.Disability Accommodations
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities so long as the accommodations do not impose an undue hardship on the employer. Accommodations can include architectural renovations to work sites, changes to work schedules, leaves of absence, job reassignment and purchase or modification of equipment.
An employee does not have to use the word “accommodations” for the employer to have a duty to provide accommodations. In fact, if it is readily apparent to the employer that the employee has a disability, the employer has an obligation to ask whether the employee needs accommodations even if the employee has not requested them.
Once the issue of accommodations is raised, whether by the employee or the employer, the law requires both sides to communicate with each other about what accommodations are necessary and workable in what the law refers to as an “interactive dialogue.” In other words, the employee cannot just demand a particular accommodation and refuse to discuss other alternatives, and the employer cannot just say no to a requested accommodation without exploring other possibilities.Pregnancy Accommodations
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination requires employers to provide pregnant employees with accommodations. Those accommodations 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. The language of the statutory provision appears to require that the employee request accommodations based on the advice of her physician. As with disability accommodations, an employer does not have to provide accommodations if doing so would impose an undue hardship on the business.Religious Accommodations
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination prohibits employers from requiring employees to violate a sincerely held religious practice, including the observance of holy days, unless accommodating the religious practice or observance would impose an undue hardship on the employer.Family and Medical Leave Regulations
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the New Jersey Family Leave Act both provide employees who have worked for an employer with at least 50 employees for at least a year with the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a seriously ill relative or for the birth or adoption of a child. The federal law (but not the state one) also allows the employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the employee’s own serious health condition.
Because the state law does not provide for such medical leave for the employee’s own illness, time off taken under the federal law does not count toward time off under the state law. This means that there are certain situations in which an employee can be entitled to more than 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Most commonly, this arises with regard to pregnant employees.
For example, if a pregnant employee is required to go on bed rest for the last trimester of pregnancy because of a pregnancy-related medical condition such as preterm labor, that employee will be allowed to take off a total of 24 weeks for maternity leave, consisting of 12 weeks before the birth under the federal law for the employee’s own serious medical condition (preterm labor) and another 12 weeks after the birth under the state law to care for the newborn.Have a Claim for Accommodations and Leaves of Absence Discrimination?
Speak with an experienced lawyer if you believe you are being or have been denied accommodations or leaves of absence. Email or call our New Jersey employment discrimination attorneys in Morristown at (973) 845-9922. Lenzo & Reis, LLC, represents workers in Newark and Jersey City and throughout New Jersey.