New NJ Law Bars Pregnancy DiscriminationOn January 27, 2014 by Schnader in schnaderworks.com
By Harris Neal Feldman
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a pregnancy discrimination bill (S-2995, A-4486) on January 21, 2013 that amends the Law Against Discrimination (LAD), the broad, pro-employee, anti-discrimination statute in New Jersey.
Although pregnant women were afforded some protection under the LAD where their pregnancy resulted in a disability, this law further extends and clarifies these protections. The law specifically adds pregnancy to the list of protected classes (such as disability, race, religion, age, gender, etc.) under the LAD. The protections extend to women during their pregnancy and after.
Under the law, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations “to pregnant women and those who suffer medical conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth, such as 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.” These accommodations are greater than those required under the LAD for disabilities, as the accommodations for pregnant employees are not limited to performance of the employee’s essential job function.
Similar to disability accommodations, the new law has an exception if the accommodations would cause an undue hardship on the business. The law specifically provides that it is not meant to increase an employee’s right to paid or unpaid leave. However, because additional leave is a recognized accommodation under the LAD, it is unclear how this language will be applied in the reasonable accommodation arena.
Employers should review their existing policies and practices and make changes to ensure compliance with this new law.