As employers may already know, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”) was amended and expanded in 2014 to provide protections to women affected by pregnancy, child birth or related medical conditions. Aside from the obvious goal of eradicating unlawful discrimination, the amendment sought to promote healthy pregnancies. The amendment requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women who choose to continue working throughout their pregnancies and to prevent discrimination of any kind on the basis of pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical conditions. The amendment made NJLAD, as it applies to pregnancy, one of the most progressive.
On Jan. 8, 2018, an additional amendment went into effect, providing for the protection of nursing mothers in the workplace. This is similar to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which has required employers to provide breaktimes for nursing mothers to express breast milk since 2010. The NJLAD amendment now requires all New Jersey employers to provide lactation breaks, regardless of an employer’s number of employees.
The new amendment also imposes a reasonable accommodation requirement, which mandates that employers must accommodate employees with daily breaktimes along with a suitable and appropriately private room so that a nursing mother can express breast milk for her child. The room must be in reasonable proximity to the employee’s working area. It is not necessary that the breaks be paid, unless the employee is already compensated for breaks. And the accommodation is not limited to a specified timeframe; rather, it should be provided until the need no longer exists.
As with any other reasonable accommodation request, an employer may deny the request only if the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the company.
Leslie A. Parikh, Esq., is a partner with Gebhardt & Kiefer, PC. She practices primarily in the areas of employment law, civil rights litigation, municipal law, insurance defense, and the representation of public entities in both State and Federal Court. Contact Ms. Parikh at 908-735-5161 or via email.