Pregnant employees may face discrimination in the workplace. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from not hiring pregnant woman as well as from firing someone because she is pregnant. However, the federal law doesn't address how employers should treat female employees who later become pregnant.
Discrimination against pregnant employees can come in many forms, and legislators in New Jersey are hoping that a proposed bill will be signed into law to help protect pregnant employees in the future. A proposed bill expands protections for female employees that are pregnant, suffer from pregnancy-related medical conditions or after giving birth. The bill has been sent to the governor and is awaiting his signature.
The bill would add pregnancy to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Act and provide protection against bias and discrimination in employment, contracts, lending, housing, public accommodation and unions.
The bill also would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations if a pregnant employee requests them based on their physician’s orders so she can continue working. The accommodations have to be provided unless they would create an "undue hardship" for the business.
Reasonable accommodations can include restroom breaks, rest breaks, modified work schedule, carrying a water bottle, job restructure, assistance or a temporary transfer to a less hazardous or physically demanding position.
If a pregnant employee requests an accommodation, an employer cannot deny the request and they cannot penalize or retaliate against the employee.
If the governor signs the proposed bill into law, it could improve working conditions for pregnant employees as well as reduce claims of pregnancy discrimination and retaliation. Employees should pay attention to see if the bill becomes a law and how it may impact their rights in the workplace.
Source: Bloomberg Law, "New Jersey Bill Mandating Accommodations In Workplace For Pregnancy Goes To Governor," Lorraine McCarthy, Jan. 7, 2014
Update: On January 21, 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed Senate Bill S2995 into law.