The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12, (“LAD”) has been amended to provide broader protections against pregnancy discrimination. Before the most recent bill was signed by Governor Christie, the LAD protected against pregnancy discrimination by only making sure that pregnant women were not treated differently from co-workers. It provided no rights for accommodation for the physical challenges of pregnancy. Pregnant women had no right to accommodation, even if their job required them to lift heavy objects. The LAD did not even contain the word “pregnancy” but was interpreted to protect pregnant women under gender.
With the passage of the new bill, pregnancy is officially a protected class, along with race, national origin, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, military status, etc. More significantly, the new bill provides a right to accommodation for pregnant women. Such 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.” Such rights will now make it harder for employers to engage in pregnancy discrimination.
An employer is obligated to provide such accommodation unless it would pose an undue hardship for the business. The law provides that there are a number of factors to consider as to whether an accommodation would pose an undue hardship. Such factors include “the overall size of the employer’s business with respect to the number of employees, number and type of facilities, and size of budget; the type of the employer’s operations, including the composition and structure of the employer’s workforce; the nature and cost of the accommodation needed, taking into consideration the availability of tax credits, tax deductions, and outside funding; and the extent to which the accommodation would involve waiver of an essential requirement of a job as opposed to a tangential or non-business necessity requirement.”
An employer is also prohibited from harassing a woman because of her pregnancy or retaliating against a woman who complains that she has been the subject of discrimination because of her pregnancy. Harassment and retaliation are forms of pregnancy discrimination.
If you are pregnant and need an accommodation, it is essential to make a request, preferably a written request, for accommodation. If you believe that you are the victim of pregnancy discrimination, the LAD could provide remedies, including lost wages, emotional distress damages, attorneys fees and costs, and punitive damages.
Ron Wronko Law has successfully litigated pregnancy discrimination claims in NJ State and Federal Courts. If you believe that you are a victim of pregnancy or other types of discrimination, please contact Ron Wronko Law at ronwronkolaw.com to fill out the contact form on our website or call us at (973) 360-1001.
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