More Protections for Pregnant Workers on the Horizon in New Jersey

The New Jersey Senate committee recently advanced S-2995, the Pregnant Women’s Fairness Act, a bill sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg, which would prohibit workplace discrimination against pregnant women.  Specifically, the bill would add language to the state’s Law Against Discrimination barring employers from treating pregnant women less favorably than others who are not pregnant but have similar work abilities.  The bill would protect female employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, including recovery from childbirth.

Under the bill, employers would be required to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy related conditions when the employee, with the advice of her physician, requests an accommodation.  Possible accommodations include bathroom breaks, breaks for increased water intake, modified work schedules and light duty or assistance with manual labor.  However, employers are not required to provide pregnant employees with additional paid or unpaid leave.  In addition, employers have the right to refuse an accommodation if they can demonstrate that it would cause an undue hardship on business operations.  The bill will likely impose new obligations upon small employers which are not subject to either the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) requirements or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act).