Fired For Being Pregnant in New Jersey

Fired For Being Pregnant in New Jersey

If you were fired for being pregnant in New Jersey, you may have the grounds to file a legal claim against your former employer. You have rights under both federal and state law to be protected against pregnancy discrimination. An attorney at Swartz Swidler may advise you about your rights and how to handle your case.

Pregnancy discrimination

Employers that have 15 or more workers are prohibited from discriminating against them because of pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. People in New Jersey are also protected under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. New Jersey’s law applies to all employers no matter their sizes.

Reasonable accommodations

Pregnant employees are entitled to receive the same accommodations that other employees who are temporarily disabled are given by their employers. This would include placing pregnant employees on light duty if the employees need it if light duty is offered to other workers. The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that employers reasonably accommodate workers who are suffering from pregnancy-related disabilities. These conditions may include gestational diabetes, preeclampsia or other conditions that are beyond normal pregnancies.

New Jersey’s law exceeds the federal law and provides added rights for pregnant workers. In New Jersey, all pregnant workers are protected and must be reasonably accommodated, including those who have normal pregnancies. These may include additional breaks to use the restroom, rest or drink water, help with lifting, transfers to other positions, modified work schedules or work restructuring. Accommodations are considered to be reasonable if they do not pose substantial expenses or burdens or undue hardships on the employers.

Leave From work

If you have certain pregnancy- or childbirth-related conditions, you may also be entitled to take leave off from work. Employers that have 50 or more employees must adhere to the Family and Medical Leave Act, which gives eligible workers the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to medical and caretaking needs, including the following:

  • Prenatal care
  • Parental leave
  • Serious pregnancy- and childbirth-related medical conditions

Employees must meet the eligibility requirements in order to take FMLA leave. An attorney at Swartz Swidler can advise you about whether you are eligible to take leave under the act.

New Jersey has its own medical leave law called the New Jersey Family Leave Act. Under this law, eligible workers may take up to 12 weeks of leave from work in any 24-month period in order to care for a newborn or adopted child. This allows workers to take leave under the FMLA for the time that they need because of pregnancy and childbirth-related conditions and then to take 12 additional weeks off for parental leave.

State disability benefits

New Jersey has a temporary disability insurance program for workers in the state. It pays workers for family and disability leave. Workers who are temporarily disabled because of childbirth or pregnancy are able to receive up to 66 percent of their usual wages. After their children are born, workers are able to receive partial wages for up to six weeks so that they can bond with their children.

What you can do if you were fired for being pregnant

If you were fired by your employer for your pregnancy or your employer denied you reasonable accommodations, you may have the legal grounds to sue. You will first need to file an administrative charge against your employer with the appropriate agencies.

Filing an administrative charge

If your employer violated federal anti-discrimination laws, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act or the ADA, you’ll have to start by filing a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You may also file a discrimination charge with the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights. If you want to immediately file a lawsuit, you will need to ask the EEOC to issue you a right-to-sue letter. It will be important for you to act quickly once you receive the letter. In federal court, you will only have 90 days to file your lawsuit. Under state law, you will have to file a lawsuit within two years of the discriminatory acts. If your employer violated either the federal FMLA or the New Jersey Family Leave Act, you do not have to file an administrative charge and may proceed directly through court.

Potential damages

If your lawsuit is successful, you can request to be reinstated to your job. In most cases, people do not request this because of the built-up hostility. Instead, you can ask for damages to compensate you for the losses that you suffered because of the employer’s actions. You may be able to recover the following:

  • Back pay and lost benefits
  • Front pay
  • Pain and suffering
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Punitive damages in egregious situations

There is no cap on lost wages under federal law, but there are for pain and suffering, punitive damages and out-of-pocket losses. The maximum amount that might be recovered for these ranges from $50,000 to $300,000, depending on your employer’s size. New Jersey does not have similar caps on damages, however.

Getting legal help

If you are thinking about filing a discrimination charge or a lawsuit based on being fired for being pregnant in New Jersey, you may need legal help. An attorney at Swartz Swidler can explain your rights, whether or not you have a good case and how much it might be worth. Contact our office today to schedule your consultation.