New Jersey LAD Now Requires Reasonable Accommodations for Employees "Affected By Pregnancy"


Philip J. Morin III

J. Andrew Kinsey

By Jr. Andrew Kinsey, Esq. & Phil Morin, Esq. 

On January 21, 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill (S2995) that amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and prohibits pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.  While New Jersey courts had previously recognized a claim of pregnancy discrimination as a form of sex or gender discrimination, the amendment makes clear that employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for workers on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.  This law takes effect immediately.

What Happened?
On January 21, 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill (S2995) that amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and prohibits pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.  While New Jersey courts had previously recognized a claim of pregnancy discrimination as a form of sex or gender discrimination, the amendment makes clear that employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for workers on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.  This law takes effect immediately.

What Does the Amendment Provide?
The amendment requires employers provide "reasonable accommodations" to female employees whom the employer “knows or should know” are “affected by pregnancy,” i.e., women who are pregnant or have medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, if the women request accommodations on the advice of their medical providers.

Such accommodations may include: “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.” The law expressly provides, however, that it is not meant to increase an employee’s right to paid or unpaid leave.  The law further provides protection from retaliation for employees who request or use a pregnancy-related accommodation. 

Are There Exceptions to the Requirement to Provide Accommodation?
The amendment requires that reasonable accommodations be provided unless they pose an “undue hardship.” Factors to be considered in the undue hardship analysis include:

(1) the overall size of the employer’s business with respect to the number of employees, number and type of facilities, and size of budget;

(2) the type of the employer’s operations, including the composition and structure of the employer’s workforce;

(3) the nature and cost of the accommodation needed, taking into consideration the availability of tax credits, tax deductions, and outside funding; and

(4) 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 Actions Should Employers Take?
Employers should (1) update employment policies and handbooks to specifically include references to pregnancy discrimination; (2) review existing policies regarding pregnant workers; (3) provide training to managers and supervisors in the "interactive process" and appropriate accommodations for female employees affected by pregnancy; (4) consult counsel if the employer believes that providing accommodations would pose an "undue hardship" upon the employer.

Please contact FPSF attorneys Andrew Kinsey or Phil Morin at (908) 454-8300 if you have any questions. 

For the full text of the amendment, click here.

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