On January 21, 2014, Governor Christie signed into law a bill that amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) to add pregnancy as a protected category, and also requires employers to provide a "reasonable accommodation" to pregnant women and those who suffer conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth. The bill overwhelmingly passed in the state legislature, with a 77-1 vote in the New Jersey General Assembly and a 38-0 vote in the State Senate. The new law went into effect upon the Governor's signature on January 21st. It applies to all employees working in the state of New Jersey as well as to independent contractors.
Under the law, pregnancy is now included among the protected statuses covered by the NJLAD, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public union membership, contracts and lending, on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, mental or physical disability, marital status, domestic partnership or civil union status, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, pregnancy, sex, gender identity or expression, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, liability for military service, or genetic testing refusal. The law also includes a provision amending the LAD in its entirety to protect any employee against reprisals by employers for asking coworkers or former coworkers for information, such as data regarding pay, compensation, bonuses or benefits, that is part of an investigation or in furtherance of a possible claim under the NJLAD.
The new amendment further requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women, which may include, among other things, bathroom breaks, breaks to facilitate increased water intake, periodic rest for pregnant women who stand for long periods of time, assistance with manual labor, job restructuring, a modified work schedule, and a temporary transfer to work that is less physically demanding or hazardous. An employee may be entitled to such an accommodation upon request and with a statement from her health care provider containing sufficient facts and opinions to support it. Accommodations or leave for pregnant employees must not be less favorable than accommodations or leave for non-pregnant employees similar in their ability or disability to work.
As with other accommodations, employers could deny an accommodation that would impose an "undue hardship," a determination that would be based on considerations such as: the business's number of employees, the type of facilities and operations, the employer's financial condition, the nature and cost of the accommodation, and the extent to which the accommodation would involve waiver of an essential requirement of the job. The law, moreover, specifies that it would not provide women with any additional leave entitlement under law in connection with pregnancy.
Under the LAD's anti-retaliation provision, employers are now prohibited from retaliating against employees who complain about pregnancy in the workplace. The law also prohibits employers from penalizing women for requesting or using a pregnancy-related workplace accommodation. This law reflects a growing national trend of similar laws. Such statutes have recently been passed in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Alaska, Texas, Illinois, Maryland. A similar law goes into effect in New York City on January 30, 2014.