Although the U.S. Supreme Court is still deciding whether the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women, the protections afforded by the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) are more wide-sweeping. For example, the LAD has long been interpreted to provide New Jersey pregnant workers with protections from pregnancy discrimination even though pregnancy was not identified as a protected characteristic until 2014. Further, the 2014 amendments to the LAD require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant and recently pregnant workers. While 2008 changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provide protections for only those pregnant women who are temporarily disabled as a result of pregnancy, the New Jersey Pregnant Workers' Fairness Act, which was incorporated into the LAD, makes clear that women who are pregnant, recently gave birth or experience medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth are entitled to reasonable accommodations without the need for a finding of temporary disability. Although the issue of providing pregnant female workers with accommodations came about slowly in New Jersey, it is a marked improvement over the federal law because it provides protections and mandates reasonable accommodations, if necessary, for normal pregnancies.
New Jersey Pregnant Worker's Fairness Act
The New Jersey Pregnant Worker's Fairness Act (PWFA) added pregnancy to the list of protected categories under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD). Under the PWFA, pregnancy is defined as, "pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, including recovery from childbirth."
Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers who request accommodations based on the advice of their physicians. Accommodations may include:
- Bathroom breaks
- Breaks to drink water
- Periodic rest
- Assistance with manual labor
- Job restructuring or modified work schedules
- Temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous work
The only exception is that New Jersey employers do not have to provide accommodations if they can prove that it will cause an undue hardship on the employer. In short, the PWFA prohibits employers from treating pregnant workers less favorably than non-pregnant workers who require accommodations. The law also makes it unlawful for employers to refuse to hire, fire or otherwise discriminate against a woman because of her pregnancy.
The PWFA applies to all New Jersey employers, regardless of the number of employees, so it protects all pregnant workers who would not be entitled to such protections under the federal law.
At Lenzo & Reis, LLC, our attorneys represent women throughout New Jersey with pregnancy discrimination claims under both state and federal law.
If you believe that you have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination, please call the New Jersey employment attorneys of Lenzo & Reis, LLC, at 973-845-9922 or email us for a free case evaluation.