Pregnancy and Family Responsibility Discrimination Claims
Employers often have a strong motive to get rid of pregnant employees or workers who are caring for family members because they may require accommodations such as modified work schedules, including maternity leave. Employers may believe this impacts their business and can cost them money and inconvenience other employees.
One of the most powerful ways that our New Jersey pregnancy discrimination lawyers prove pregnancy discrimination is through a timeline. For example, if you have announced you are pregnant and suddenly get a poor evaluation after working for the company for years, that could be considered discrimination. Similarly, if you are returning from maternity or caregiving leave and you find your job responsibilities have changed, that might be discrimination as well.Pregnancy Discrimination Involves Many of the Same Issues as Disability Discrimination
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy regarding any aspect of employment, including the following:
- Job assignments
- Employee benefits
Employers must avoid pregnancy discrimination and family responsibility discrimination and treat women who are temporarily unable to perform some or all of their job duties due to pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions, and/or familial responsibilities no differently than they treat other employees who are temporarily unable to perform some or all of their job duties because of a disability.Accommodations for Pregnant Workers
A pregnant worker in New Jersey does not need to be considered “disabled” to receive legal protection. Instead, all pregnant women are entitled to reasonable accommodations for their pregnancy, including:
- Bathroom breaks
- Breaks for increased water intake
- Periodic rest
- Assistance with manual labor
- Job restructuring
- A modified work schedule
- A temporary transfer to less strenuous or hazardous work
New Jersey employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are breastfeeding. Those accommodations include providing employees with reasonable break times each day to express milk as well as a suitable, private area (other than a toilet stall) to express milk.Some Pregnant Women May Be Entitled to Almost Six Months of Leave
Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), qualified employees are permitted to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave for serious health conditions. While the New Jersey Family Leave Act (FLA) does not provide employees with unpaid leave for their own medical conditions, it does afford qualified employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn child.
Because the state law does not provide job protection for employees who take time off for their own serious health condition, any time taken under the federal law for that purpose does not count against employees’ 12 weeks of family leave under state law. So, if a pregnant woman develops a medical condition in her last trimester that requires her to take the last 12 weeks of her pregnancy off from work under the federal FMLA for her own serious health condition, she is still entitled to another 12 weeks of family leave under the New Jersey FLA to care for her newborn.
If you are a victim of unfair treatment because of pregnancy, you need an attorney to fight for your rights. The law firm of Lenzo & Reis, LLC, has extensive experience representing women who have been harmed by pregnancy discrimination.Are You Caring for Children or Elderly Parents?
Many employees have caregiving responsibilities at home, whether for children, elderly parents or family members with medical conditions. They, too, often experience discrimination in the workplace. This is known as family responsibilities discrimination, caregiver discrimination or parental rights discrimination.
There is no federal or New Jersey law that explicitly prohibits employers from discrimination against employees on the basis of their family responsibilities. However, family responsibilities discrimination often takes the form of gender stereotyping.
For example, employers may believe that female employees with children are more likely to put their families ahead of their jobs. Conversely, the same employers may judge a male employee who seeks time off from work for family responsibilities. This is due to the stereotype that men should put their jobs first and let their wives bear the brunt of caregiving duties.What Is Family Responsibility Discrimination?
As explained above, familial responsibilities discrimination often takes the form of gender discrimination and/or gender stereotyping for employees who are tasked with caregiving responsibilities for children, elderly parents or other family members. In addition, family responsibility discrimination claims can also be framed as associational discrimination claims.
New Jersey law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis that they are associated with someone with a particular legally protected characteristic. For example, if an employee has a child, spouse or parent requiring special care, an employer’s differential treatment of that employee based on the employee’s caregiving responsibilities could be characterized as discrimination against the employee based on the employee’s association with a person who has a disability.Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Guidelines Can Be Complex to Navigate
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 newly born or newly adopted child. In addition, the FMLA allows employees who have worked for an employer with a least 50 employees for at least a year to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their own serious medical condition.
These statutes prohibit employers from interfering with employees’ rights to take legally protected leave. Courts have interpreted that to bar employers from taking adverse employment actions (such as termination, suspension, or the denial of promotions or raises) against employees because they requested or took family leave.Discriminated Against Because You Are Pregnant or Need to Care for Family?
If you are being or have been discriminated against because you are pregnant or you need to care for children, elderly relatives, or relatives with disabilities, email or call Lenzo & Reis, LLC, at (973) 845-9922. We represent people with pregnancy and family responsibility claims in Morristown, Newark and Jersey City, and throughout New Jersey.