On September 30, 2013, New Jersey (NJ) Senate proposed legislation requiring employers to make reasonable accommodation available for pregnancy-related needs when requested by the employees with the advice of their physician. Currently, under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJ LAD), there is no requirement that preferential leave be given to a pregnant employee, unless complications related to the pregnancy rise to the level of a disability under New Jersey discrimination law.
Under the proposed amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, an employer would be required to provide protections to women who are pregnant in the workforce. Specifically, the amendment would prevent employers from discriminating against a woman affected by pregnancy by requiring that the employer treat the pregnant employee who seeks an accommodation similarly to the manner in which an employer must treat a disabled employees who needs a reasonable accommodation. The legislation also would prohibit the employer from taking any adverse action or discriminating against the employee for taking pregnancy related leave or who seeks various other reasonable accommodations, such as increased bathroom and/or stretching breaks.
A similar bill has also been introduced in the City of Philadelphia on October 3, 2013. The Philadelphia bill would amend Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance. Similar to the New Jersey proposed amendment, the Philadelphia amendment, Bill No. 130687, would require employers to make reasonable workplace accommodations for employees who have needs related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. According to the bill’s sponsors, a reasonable accommodation would be defined as “an accommodation that can be made by an employer in the workplace that will allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job,” and “include, but are not limited to, restroom breaks, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time, assistance with manual labor, leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth, reassignment to a vacant position, and job restructuring.” The law would require employers provide such reasonable accommodations, unless doing so would create undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense).
But what about federal laws against pregnancy-discrimination? The only federal anti-discrimination laws that require employers to provide reasonable accommodations are the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as it applies to religious practices. The ADA does not view normal pregnancy as a disability. Instead, pregnancy discrimination is governed by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act amendments to Title VII and is considered a form of sex-discrimination. The law requires employers to treat pregnant employees exactly the same as employees with temporary disabilities. If reasonable accommodations are not offered to employees with temporary disabilities, then there is no requirement to offer reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees either. However, women who have a pregnancy with complications may be “ADA-disabled,” in which case an offer of reasonable accommodations is mandatory. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) also classifies certain “normal” pregnancy related conditions, such as morning sickness and prenatal doctor visits to qualify as “serious health conditions.”
Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania (PA) has introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, SB 942, which would provide similar protections to pregnant employees, but on a federal level. If passed, all three proposed legislations would protect the civil rights of and prevent discrimination against pregnant employees.
If you believe that you have been discriminated against because of pregnancy, sex, or other any other basis, you should contact an employment attorney right away. Swartz Swidler, LLC is a New Jersey employment law firm which represents employees on matters of wrongful termination, discrimination, and wage and hour disputes. Our New Jersey (NJ) employment attorneys have filed hundreds of discrimination claims based on pregnancy, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, and other protected characteristics. You can learn more about our practice, and can receive a free legal consultation, by calling us today to speak to one of our New Jersey employment lawyers.