New Jersey Failure to Reasonably Accommodate Pregnancy or Breastfeeding Mothers
In 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a landmark decision that significantly expanded the state’s legal protections for workers who are pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. Federal and state laws already required employers to make “reasonable accommodations” in the workplace for employees with a temporary disability or medical condition, including pregnancy, but the Court’s ruling helped to clarify the scope of these requirements when it came to new and expecting parents.
Of course, no single court decision will stop all employers from continuing to engage in discriminatory conduct. Pregnant women and new mothers still face a number of challenges asserting their rights at work. Indeed, many employees continue to legitimately fear retaliation if they do assert their rights. If you are dealing with such discrimination and need legal representation from a qualified New Jersey workplace discrimination lawyer, the team at Poulos LoPiccolo PC is here to help.
New Jersey Has Expanded Protections for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Workers
Federal and state anti-discrimination laws have long required employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant employees who are unable to perform their jobs in the same manner as before their pregnancy. For example, a pregnant employee is allowed to request a lighter duty assignment for the duration of their pregnancy. The employer is not automatically required to grant every request but must still engage in an interactive good-faith process to find an accommodation that is “reasonable” and will not impose an undue hardship or cost on the business. A blanket refusal to make any accommodation, however, is a form of illegal pregnancy discrimination.
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s 2021 decision further clarified employers’ obligations towards pregnant and breastfeeding employees under both the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and the New Jersey Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). Specifically, an employee can bring an action under these laws in any of the following three scenarios:
- An employer subjects an employee to unfavorable treatment due to the fact they are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- An employer fails to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee who is pregnant or breastfeeding. Such accommodations may include, but are not limited to, providing additional bathroom breaks, period rest, assistance with manual labor tasks, and temporarily restructuring job tasks.
- An employer penalizes an employee for seeking an accommodation due to the fact they are pregnant or breastfeeding. This includes making the conditions of a requested accommodation particularly harsh or creating a “hostile work environment” in retaliation.
In short, you always have a legal right to ask your employer for an accommodation to help you work through and after your pregnancy. In some cases, an employer can be sued if they unreasonably refuse that request. And in any case, your employer cannot use the request as a justification for treating you less favorably at work moving forward.
Experienced NJ Employment Lawyers Serving Ocean, Monmouth & Middlesex County
New and expecting mothers already have a lot to deal with on a daily basis. The last thing they need is an uncooperative employer who goes out of their way to refuse even the simplest accommodation. If you have been the victim of pregnancy-related discrimination in the workplace and would like to speak to a New Jersey failure to reasonably accommodate pregnancy or breastfeeding mothers lawyer, contact Poulos LoPiccolo PC today to schedule an initial consultation.