Pregnancy discrimination involves many of the same issues as disability discrimination. Like employees with disabilities, pregnant employees often require accommodations, usually in the form of a modified work schedule, including maternity leave. That interferes with the employer’s business, can cost the employer money, and inconveniences other employees. As a result, employers often have a strong motive to get rid of pregnant employees. One of the most powerful ways that we prove pregnancy discrimination is through a timeline. If an employee has been at an employer for a long time without any problems, and then suddenly is told she is not doing a good job after announcing her pregnancy, that suggests discrimination. Similarly, if an employee returns from maternity leave to discover that her job has been changed in undesirable ways, that points toward discrimination.
Pregnancy Discrimination Laws
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 also treat women who are temporarily unable to perform some or all of their job duties due to pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical conditions no differently than they treat other similarly disabled workers.
Accommodations for Pregnant Workers
Under federal law, a normal pregnancy without complications is not considered a disability and pregnant workers are not entitled to special treatment. A pregnant worker in New Jersey, however, does not need to be considered “disabled” to receive legal protection and is entitled to reasonable accommodations, including the following:
- Bathroom breaks
- Breaks for increased water intake
- Periodic rest
- Assistance with manual labor
- Job restructuring
- Modified work schedules
- Temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous work
Family and Medical Leave
Pregnant women in New Jersey may be entitled to almost six months of leave. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employee is permitted to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid medical leave for her own serious health condition. The New Jersey Family Leave Act (“FLA”) does not provide employees with unpaid leave for their own medical issues; however, it does afford employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to take care of a newborn child. Because the state law does not allow employees to take time off for their own serious health condition, any time taken under the federal law for that purpose does not count against the employee’s twelve 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 twelve weeks of her pregnancy off from work under the federal FMLA for her own serious health condition, she is still entitled to another twelve weeks of family leave under the New Jersey FLA to care for her newborn baby.
If you are the 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.