NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE SIGNS BILL PROHIBITING PREGNANCY-RELATED DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORKPLACE

The New Jersey legislature has noted that pregnant women can be vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace.  There have been reports that women who have requested an accommodation due to their pregnancy-related needs or issues have been unfairly denied reasonable accommodations or have been demoted, terminated or placed on unpaid leave.

Recognizing the pervasiveness of this discriminatory treatment in the workplace, on January 21, 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law Bill No. S2995 (substituted for A4486), which amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJ LAD”).  Effective immediately, this amendment now prohibits workplace discrimination against women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.  The law specifies that women affected by pregnancy should not be treated in a manner less favorable than other persons not affected by pregnancy.  Moreover, the bill requires that an employer provide a reasonable accommodation for pregnancy-related needs when requested by the employee with the advice of her physician.  The law contemplates accommodations such as bathroom breaks or breaks for increased water intakes, periodic rest, assistance with manual labor, job restructuring or modified work schedules, and temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous work.  Note however, that similar to the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”), an employer will not be penalized for failing to provide an accommodation if the accommodation would cause the employer an undue hardship.