When it comes to maintaining a just and inclusive workplace, protecting the rights of pregnant employees stands as one of the most significant areas of employment law. New Jersey State and Federal laws robustly safeguard expecting mothers from discrimination, ensuring that pregnancy does not compromise the fairness of their employment conditions.

One crucial statute to understand in this context is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978, an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The PDA prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Employers must treat women affected by these conditions the same way they treat any other employee with a similar ability or inability to work. This federal law applies to employers with 15 or more employees, which includes state and local governments.

On the state level, New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) also prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. NJLAD applies to all employers, regardless of the number of employees, and provides more expansive protections than federal law. For example, it not only requires employers to treat pregnant women as they would any other employees but also mandates that they provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related needs when requested by the employee, as long as the accommodation does not cause an undue hardship for the employer.

For instance, let’s consider a case where a pregnant employee suffers from morning sickness and requests a later start time. If this adjustment doesn’t impose an undue hardship on the employer’s operations, NJLAD obligates the employer to make this reasonable accommodation. Refusing to do so may constitute pregnancy discrimination.

Moreover, the New Jersey Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (NJPWFA), an amendment to NJLAD, strengthens these protections by explicitly detailing employers’ responsibilities in accommodating pregnant workers. It further underscores that employers should not treat pregnant employees less favorably than others who are not affected by pregnancy but are similar in their ability or inability to work.

It’s also crucial to understand the role of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This Federal law entitles eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons, which includes the birth of a child and caring for a newborn. This law applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees.

In New Jersey, the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) also provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave in a 24-month period for the care of a newborn child.

Despite these legal safeguards, pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent issue in many workplaces. Examples of such discriminatory practices can include but are not limited to, unwarranted dismissal, denial of advancement opportunities, failure to provide reasonable accommodations, or adverse changes in working conditions following the announcement or confirmation of an employee’s pregnancy.

For example, if a pregnant employee performs her job adequately but is suddenly fired after revealing her pregnancy, this could indicate pregnancy discrimination. Similarly, if a pregnant employee is denied a promotion, which is given to a less qualified individual, simply because the employer assumes the employee will be less dedicated to the job after childbirth, this could be an example of pregnancy discrimination.

In cases where you suspect that you have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination, it’s essential to seek legal advice to assess the strength of your case, navigate the complexities of the law, and ensure your rights are robustly defended.

This includes documenting all incidents that may be discriminatory, including keeping a record of any negative comments about your pregnancy and any changes in your employment status or conditions after you announce your pregnancy. It’s also vital to understand that both Federal and New Jersey laws prohibit retaliation against employees who assert their rights under these laws, so you should never be deterred from pursuing justice.

While the landscape of pregnancy discrimination law is complex, its core aim is simple: ensuring that no employee suffers undue hardship or prejudice due to their pregnancy. Whether by enforcing reasonable accommodations or protecting against discriminatory employment practices, these statutes stand as essential tools in preserving an equitable and inclusive workplace for all.

Contact Risman & Risman, P.C. for Help with Your Pregnancy Discrimination Claim

If you believe that you have been the victim of pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, it is essential to consult with an experienced employment attorney in New Jersey who can help you understand your rights and options. The New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorneys of Risman & Risman, P.C. are eager to discuss your concerns. There is no charge for the consultation. Please call us at (212) 233-6400 or online.

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