Finally, New Jersey joins other states in protecting pregnant women. It is really shocking that a state like ours which has such broad remedial statutes did not expressly protect pregnant women under its discrimination statute.
In the past, plaintiff’s employment lawyers had to do strained gymnastics maneuvers to try to protect women subjected to pregnancy discrimination by what was known as a gender plus theory of liability or a disability discrimination claim (where the pregnancy had a medical complication).
Now, those gymnastic talents are no longer required as New Jersey joins the modern era of PPP states! Last week, the Governor signed the “Pregnancy Bill.” This bill amends New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12 (“LAD”), to provide express protections for pregnant employees.
The Pregnancy Bill defines pregnancy broadly as “pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.”
Now that employee who seeks employment to only have a potential employer stare at her figure and then ask questions aimed to inquire as to the women’s pregnancy status has ammunition to take action. That employee who tells the supervisor that she needs pregnancy leave and is met with, “Oh, no, not now. Your timing is horrible. This is our busy season,” has potential protections.
Of course, it is always important what the employee does to protect her rights. But at least now the LAD applies specifically to pregnancy. Employers should be wary that from this moment on, if they consider pregnancy in making an employment determination, they may be in violation of the LAD. Under the amended LAD, employers are mandated to grant reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees and cannot penalize employees for requesting accommodation.
Now, the LAD applies not only to protecting those subject to sexual harassment – quid pro quo and hostile work environment, but also racial discrimination, age discrimination, national origin discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, disability discrimination …. and pregnancy discrimination. And the remedies available to employees are significant – Back wages, interest, emotional distress damages, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and costs, etc.
Hazzaaa, NJ is a PPD state!!! Thank you Governor!!