Executive Summary:  Both houses of the New Jersey legislature have passed a bill that would amend the Law Against Discrimination to include protections for pregnant workers, including reasonable workplace accommodations and unpaid leave.    

Amendment Would Prohibit Discrimination Against Pregnant Workers

A bill (S-2995/A-4486) has passed in both the Senate and the Assembly with only one "no" vote.  The bill would amend the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to add pregnancy to the list of characteristics or categories protected by the law.  (The law expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, sex, gender identity or expression, disability or atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait of any individual, or because of the liability for service in the Armed Forces of the United States or the nationality of any individual, or because of the refusal to submit to a genetic test or make available the results of a genetic test to an employer.) 

Employers Would Be Required To Provide Reasonable Accommodations To Workers Affected By Pregnancy

The law would also require employers treat workers affected by pregnancy, defined as pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, including recovery from childbirth, the same as other workers not affected by pregnancy but with similar ability or inability to work.  Employers would be required to provide pregnant workers 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, when the worker's request for accommodation is based on the advice of her physician.  Employers are not required to provide accommodations which would place an undue hardship on the operations of the business.  Employers would also be required to provide unpaid leave in a no less favorable way than it would to workers who are not pregnant but are similarly able or unable to work. 

The bill as amended specifically states that it is not intended to increase or decrease any rights to paid or unpaid leave.

What Does this Mean for Employers?

If passed, the law will specifically include pregnancy among the already lengthy list of protected categories under the Law Against Discrimination.  Employers should review their policies, including their accommodation and leave policies, to ensure compliance with the law.