On January 21, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the Pregnant Worker’s Fairness Act (PWFA) into law, and New Jersey joined a growing number of jurisdictions that require employers to provide workplace accommodations to employees who are “affected by pregnancy,” regardless of whether those employees are “disabled” and regardless of whether the requested accommodations are necessary for the employees to perform the essential functions of their jobs. In addition to the new regulations regarding pregnant employees, employers should be aware of newly updated wage and hour posting and notice obligations.
The PWFA—an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD)—expressly bans pregnancy discrimination and imposes new workplace accommodation requirements on employers. The PWFA is effective immediately and applies to all employers in New Jersey (except federal employers). Although the new law expressly provides that it does not extend a pregnant employee’s entitlement to a leave of absence, the PWFA goes significantly further than its federal law counterparts—the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—in the protections that it affords to pregnant employees.
For example, the PWFA compels employers to make reasonable workplace accommodations for female employees who the employer “knows or should know” are “affected by pregnancy”—i.e., women who are pregnant and women who have medical conditions relating to pregnancy or childbirth—regardless of whether those employees would be considered “disabled” under the ADA or NJLAD. Potential accommodations identified in the PWFA include providing bathroom breaks, breaks for increased water intake, periodic rest, modified work schedules, assistance with manual labor, and temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous work.
Employers with operations in New Jersey should update employee handbooks and policies covering reasonable accommodations and should train managers and human resources personnel on the effect of this new amendment. An understanding of the PWFA is particularly important in light of the broad remedies available to employees under the NJLAD, which include equitable relief and compensatory and punitive damages.
Posting and Notice Obligations
Additionally, the beginning of a new year is an appropriate time for employers to take stock of the posting and notice obligations imposed by New Jersey law. In January, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDLWD) released a revised minimum wage poster reflecting the current minimum wage rate of $8.25 per hour, which became effective January 1. The NJDLWD also recently revised the wage payment poster to include the following information:
Health club membership fees and child care services are permissible deductions under the New Jersey Wage Payment Law.
Employers must provide new hires with a required notice (see Recordkeeping Requirements below) describing the employer’s obligation to maintain records regarding wages, benefits, taxes, and other contributions and assessments.
Although there is no express deadline for posting the revised documents, New Jersey employers should do so as soon as possible. As a reminder, New Jersey requires covered employers to post or distribute notice of several other laws, including the following: