New Jersey Governor Chris Christie began his final week in office by signing 40 bills into law, including an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination that immediately bars discrimination against breastfeeding employees. The new law also requires employers to provide such employees with reasonable accommodation. New Jersey employers should take steps to familiarize themselves with the new legal requirements and adjust policies and practices to ensure compliance.
Under the amendment, signed into law on January 8 and effective immediately, you may not refuse to hire breastfeeding applicants, and are barred from firing them or otherwise discriminating against them in compensation and other terms, conditions, or privileges of employment on the ground that they are breastfeeding. You are likewise prohibited from treating women employees you know or should know are “affected by breastfeeding” less favorably—for example, with respect to workplace accommodation and leave policies—than employees not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.
You must also provide breastfeeding employees with reasonable accommodation, unless you can show this would impose an “undue hardship” on your business. The accommodation must include a reasonable break time each day and a private location near the work area (but not a toilet stall) for the employee to express breast milk for her child.
The factors considered in determining whether an accommodation would be an undue hardship include:
- the overall size of your business with respect to the number of employees, number and type of facilities, and size of the budget;
- the type of your operations, including the composition and structure of your workforce;
- the nature and cost of the accommodation, 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.
What Should New Jersey Employers Do Now?
You have no time to lose when it comes to complying with these requirements, because the amendment takes effect immediately. You should incorporate these new requirements into your policies and practices, including managerial training, written policies and handbooks, and overall compliance efforts.