Final legislative approval was recently received for a bill that would add pregnancy as a protected characteristic under New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination (LAD). The bill, which is known as A-4486/S-2995, was approved by the New Jersey State Assembly by an overwhelming vote of 77 to 1. The bill had previously been approved by the New Jersey State Senate by a unanimous vote in November of 2013. Now, the bill simply requires approval by the governor to become official law.
If enacted, the bill will add not only pregnancy, but also, medical conditions related to pregnancy, as conditions giving an employee protected status under the LAD. These protections specifically apply to employment-related matters. Employers would be required to make reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees in the workplace. These accommodations include allowing time for bathroom breaks, water breaks, and rest breaks, as well as allowing a pregnant employee to request a transfer to less hazardous or less strenuous job responsibilities. Furthermore, the bill also prohibits an employer from retaliating or otherwise penalizing an employee who makes a request for reasonable accommodations due to her pregnancy.
Under the bill, employers must comply with an employee's reasonable requests or requests made by an employee's doctor unless the employer can show that it will be subject to undue hardship. In order to prove that undue hardship exists, the employer must demonstrate that due to the size and nature of its business, it cannot make the accommodation without suffering severe consequences.
If signed by the governor, New Jersey would join several other states that already provide similar protections to pregnant employees. New York and Pennsylvania also began considering similar laws during 2013, but have not yet enacted them. Aside from the overwhelming support of New Jersey legislators, the bill also has widespread public support. If enacted, the bill will go into effect right away, immediately giving pregnant employees increased protection in the workplace.
Update: On January 21, 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed Senate Bill S2995 into law.