Articles Posted in Pregnancy Discrimination

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You have experienced one of life’s greatest joys – you found you are pregnant. You are looking forward to tackling the challenges of pregnancy as you continue to handle the challenges of your job. To make it happen, though, you need your employer to partner with you by providing you with certain reasonable accommodations. What, you may wonder, are your employer’s obligations under New Jersey law? Furthermore, you may wonder, what are my rights if my employer does nothing to accommodate my pregnancy? If you find yourself denied an accommodation in this position, you may be entitled to compensation through Law Against Discrimination litigation. Talk to a skilled New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney about your situation to find out what the legal system can do for you.

Pregnant workers in New Jersey, especially when it comes to their getting reasonable accommodations, have received a substantial boost in recent years. In January 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed into law the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act. The 2014 law explicitly included pregnant workers as one of the protected groups when it comes to workplace discrimination.

The law went further, though. It said that if you, as a pregnant worker, ask your employer for an accommodation based upon the advice of your doctor, your employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation unless the employer can demonstrate accommodating you would create an “undue hardship” for its business.

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Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination still goes on in this country, including in workplaces in New Jersey. Some varieties of pregnancy discrimination can be somewhat more obvious, like firing a woman because she’s pregnant or refusing to hire a candidate due to her pregnancy. Others, like demanding that a current employee take a leave of absence from work, due to her pregnancy, before she’s ready may be less so. However, in all three of these examples, the employer’s conduct may amount to impermissible pregnancy discrimination in New Jersey. If you think that your employer treated you unfairly as a result of your being pregnant, you may have a case and may be entitled to compensation. You should act without delay and reach out to a knowledgeable New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney about your situation.

The most fundamental thing to remember when it comes to pregnancy discrimination is that pregnant workers are entitled to the same treatment from their employers as non-pregnant workers are. Just as an employer is not entitled to demand that a worker take leave solely because that worker has a medical condition, an employer similarly cannot force an employee to begin taking leave strictly because she has notified the employer that she is pregnant.

New Jersey law says that a pregnant worker, just like any other worker, is entitled to remain on the job and reject a request that she take leave, as long as she remains capable of performing the essential functions of her job. That, in turn, means that the point in the pregnancy at which the employer can demand that the employee stop working and start using her leave will vary depending on the specific facts of that pregnancy and that job.

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In 2014, New Jersey enacted the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. That law expanded anti-discrimination protections for women who are pregnant, may become pregnant, or have a pregnancy-related medical condition. The law recognized that women who have recently added to their families or are seeking to add to their families are a particularly vulnerable group in the workplace when it comes to discrimination. The law’s protections include not just pregnancy but also pregnancy-related medical conditions. Thus, if you have been fired from your job because of a medical condition tied to pregnancy, you should reach out promptly to an experienced New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney, since you may have a discrimination case against your employer.

If you are familiar at all with the laws prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy, you probably can identify certain types of employment actions that are wrongful. Certainly, proof of an employer’s firing a satisfactory employee almost immediately after she discloses her pregnancy will be suspicious. Evidence of an employer’s refusal to hire a woman because she disclosed that she was trying to become pregnant or was contemplating growing her family could also give that woman a possible discrimination case.

However, what about actions that are less blatant? For example, many women suffer varying degrees of medical problems that are inherently connected to their pregnancies. These might include severe and debilitating nausea, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes during the pregnancy and post-partum depression after giving birth. There are also many women who experience “high-risk” pregnancies either because they are carrying multiple babies or because they have pre-existing medical issues that make their pregnancies more complicated than those of other women.

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The news, unfortunately, remains frequently populated by stories of women who suffer from workplace discrimination because of their pregnancies. Whether it is the personal assistant of a famous TV and radio political talk show host (who was fired on her first day back from maternity leave), the Pennsylvania bank employee fired because her employer believed (incorrectly) that she was not planning to return to work after giving birth, or the Georgia warehouse worker fired after her doctor gave her a note restricting her from lifting heavy loads, these stories of women facing harm to their employment situations due to their pregnancies take place too often. Fortunately, in New Jersey, the law has some strong safeguards to protect pregnant women from discrimination on the job. If you think that your pregnancy led your employer to take an adverse action against you at work, you should contact a knowledgeable New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney right away.

Pregnancy discrimination is prohibited under both federal and New Jersey laws, since both recognize discrimination against pregnant women as a form of sex discrimination. The federal ban applies to employers with 15 or more employees, while the New Jersey prohibition applies to employers of all sizes. In New Jersey, those anti-discrimination protections also extend to childbirth and “pregnancy-related medical conditions.”

Your employer cannot simply end your employment because your pregnancy has changed what you can and cannot do. Similar to a situation involving an employee with a disability, an employer must attempt to make a reasonable accommodation of the employee’s pregnancy-related limitations. These accommodations might include, for example, allowing extra bathroom breaks or help with certain physical labor.

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Pregnancy discrimination has been against the law in New Jersey for many years. Pregnant women are a protected class under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. Additionally, federal law bans the practice of pregnancy discrimination too. The federal government enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 to include pregnant women as a class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Both state and federal laws consider pregnancy discrimination to be a form of sex discrimination. The prohibition against discrimination extends beyond just pregnancy, though, since it also applies to childbirth and “pregnancy-related medical conditions.” If you believe you have experienced this kind of harm related to pregnancy, it is important to contact a New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney promptly and discuss your options.

Thus, what exactly is pregnancy discrimination? Workplace pregnancy discrimination is any type of adverse employment action against an employee or job candidate based upon the fact that the woman is pregnant. An employer can be liable for pregnancy discrimination even if that employer did not actually know that the woman was pregnant, as long as it reasonably should have known that the employee (or candidate) was pregnant.

The kinds of missteps that an employer can perform that can lead to liability can include firing a pregnant worker or refusing to hire a candidate because she was pregnant. Additionally, an employer that refuses to hire a job candidate because the employer thinks that the employee might become pregnant is potentially liable for pregnancy discrimination as well. Along those lines, if you are a candidate for a job, and your potential employer questions you during the interview process about wanting children, planning to have children, or a desire to start or grow your family, you may have been a victim of illegal discrimination.

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New Jersey has expanded the array of people protected from discrimination under the Law Against Discrimination. Starting in January 2018, New Jersey is the 18th state to prohibit employers from engaging in workplace discrimination against women who are breastfeeding. The additions to the NJLAD also require employers to provide accommodations to breastfeeding mothers in order to allow them to take breaks to nurse or pump at work. If you suffer adverse employment treatment due to your breastfeeding, or your employer does not provide you with a proper accommodation for feeding or pumping, you may have a legal case against your employer. As with any instance of workplace discrimination, you should contact an experienced New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorney to discuss your rights and your options.

The new law, which was signed by the governor on Jan. 8 and went into effect immediately, added breastfeeding as one of the bases upon which employers cannot discriminate in New Jersey, reported. This places breastfeeding alongside pregnancy, sex, marital status, race, creed, color, national origin, ancestry, age, affectional or sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or expression, and disability (among other things) as prohibited bases of workplace discrimination under the Law Against Discrimination.

The law includes both the activities of directly feeding the child and pumping breast milk for use later. The new provision requires employers, as an accommodation, to provide nursing employees with a private space in which to express milk. That space must be near the nursing mother’s work station and must not be a toilet.

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Too often, women across all fields of work face discriminatory hurdles in their employment. This is especially true for pregnant women and new mothers. Sometimes the bias will be overt comments, while other times it may be more subtle, like the gender makeup of employees let go in a round of layoffs. Regardless of the particular details, if you’ve faced pregnancy discrimination, it’s against the law, and you need skilled New Jersey pregnancy discrimination lawyers to help you through the legal process.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a federal lawsuit against a North Jersey real estate firm, accusing the employer of engaging in pregnancy discrimination against several of its female employees. According to a news report, the EEOC’s complaint contained some shocking allegations, like a firm supervisor who said that women “get stupid” when they get pregnant and that “pregnancy makes you retarded.” For one employee named Brianna, the alleged discrimination included being belittled, being given “onerous” assignments, and eventually being fired. That case is just beginning its path through the system in the District of New Jersey.

Unfortunately, Brianna’s story is not unique. Late last year, the District of New Jersey entered a ruling as part of an engineer’s lawsuit against her former employer for pregnancy discrimination. The engineer, Adrienne, had worked for her employer since 2003. In 2010, the employer valued her enough to promote her to a project engineer position. In September 2012, she notified her employer that she was pregnant. By the following April, the employer had laid Adrienne off.

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Thirty-nine years ago this fall, President Jimmy Carter signed into law the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Thirty-six years later, Governor Chris Christie signed into law New Jersey’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which added pregnancy discrimination to the list of illegal forms of discrimination under the Law Against Discrimination. Despite all of these advances in statutory laws, though, pregnancy discrimination still occurs, unfortunately. One of the keys, if you think your employer has discriminated against you based upon your pregnancy, is to contact experienced New Jersey discrimination counsel right away. One North Jersey expectant mom did exactly that and, based upon a recent ruling by the Appellate Division, will be able to take her discrimination case to trial.

The pregnant woman was a medical technician at a clinic in Union County. The end of her employment, as described in her complaint, was an unfortunately common scenario. In late July 2014, she notified her employer that she was pregnant, and hers was a high-risk pregnancy. Less than one week later, one of the doctors who ran the clinic ordered her to wash the second-floor windows. In her first 18 months, the technician had received exactly zero directives to clean windows. Allegedly thinking that the doctor was joking, the technician responded, “I don’t do windows.”

The same doctor issued the same command twice more that day. Allegedly, the technician refused each time because, at her diminutive height, cleaning the floor-to-ceiling windows would’ve meant climbing a ladder, which can be very unhealthy for women with high-risk pregnancies. After the third refusal, the doctor fired her.

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It is fairly well-known that an employer who undertakes an action harmful toward an employee simply because that employee is pregnant is liable for impermissible discrimination. However, what happens when the employer allegedly acts out of concern for the mother-to-be or her unborn child? The answer, in short, is that if an employer’s action is professionally adverse for the pregnant employee, regardless of the reasons, the action is discriminatory. A debt collection company employee and the revocation of her promotion recently served as a case in point.

The facts underlying this case are something that takes place unfortunately too often. Carolyn was a successful employee with a debt collection company in Hackensack. Things were probably exciting for Carolyn because she had just earned a promotion to collections manager with the company. On the personal side, she was also pregnant.

When the employee announced her pregnancy to her employer, things changed dramatically. The employer took back the promotion. The employer concluded that the woman’s pregnancy, which would last through the employer’s busy tax season, would be a problem. Additionally, the employer unilaterally decided that the stress and long hours involved in being a collections manager with their company were not conducive to the overall health of a pregnant woman. Instead, the employer told Carolyn to “focus on her health,” according to an HR Daily Advisor report.

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