On January 21, 2013, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation that adds pregnancy as a protected status under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for female employees affected by pregnancy. The new law went into effect immediately.
The law defines pregnancy to include “pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, including recovery from childbirth.”
In addition to prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy, the law requires an employer of a female employee affected by pregnancy to make reasonable accommodations in the workplace, 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 for needs related to the pregnancy when the employee, based on the advice of her physician, requests the accommodation, unless the employer can demonstrate that providing the accommodation would be an undue hardship on the business operations of the employer.
In determining whether an accommodation would impose undue hardship on the employer, the factors to be considered include: the overall size of the employer’s business with respect to the number of employees, number and type of facilities, and size of budget; the type of the employer’s operations, including the composition and structure of the employer’s workforce; the nature and cost of the accommodation needed, 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.
The law also prohibits an employer from, in any way, penalizing the employee in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment for requesting or using an accommodation.
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act already forbids discrimination based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, such as leave and health insurance, and any other term or condition of employment. The NJLAD expands this coverage significantly by adding a reasonable accommodation requirement.
Some other states, including without limitation Maryland, New York, Michigan, Connecticut, and California, already have some kind of law requiring accommodations for pregnant workers. We expect there to be a surge in this type of legislation — in 2013, bills were introduced in Iowa, Illinois, and Maine, as well.