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, nj.com 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.
When it comes to compensation for mothers’ breaks for expressing milk, the law essentially demands that an employer treat a nursing mother’s breastfeeding breaks the same as it would any other employee’s breaks. The employee is not required to pay nursing mothers for their breastfeeding breaks unless those employees were already receiving compensation. The law is very clear that employers cannot treat breastfeeding employees any less favorably than they would other non-breastfeeding employees, and that includes the employer’s policies regarding compensation for breaks.
The new law does provide an exemption for employers, but that exemption is the same narrow one that applies with regard to all types of workplace accommodations. The employer, in order to avoid liability for discriminating against breastfeeding employees, must show that providing the accommodations required by the law would create “an undue hardship on business operations” for the employer.
Prior to New Jersey’s enactment of this new law that extended NJLAD protections to breastfeeding mothers, 17 states had laws that included such provisions. In New Jersey, prior to the passage of this law, breastfeeding employees could only rely upon federal law. Some federal courts have ruled that federal law under Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act offers anti-discrimination protections to breastfeeding mothers. The Third Circuit, whose decisions cover New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, has not made such a pronouncement. Additionally, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to provide breaks for breastfeeding, but those FLSA break time rules only apply to employers with 50 or more employees.
New Jersey law has very sweeping protections for workers against discrimination on the job, which have now expanded to protect even more workers. If you think you’ve been a victim of workplace discrimination, you should reach out to the knowledgeable New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation to find out how we can help you.
More blog posts:
Alleged Victims of Pregnancy Discrimination Take On Real Estate, Engineering Employers in New Jersey, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Oct. 12, 2017
Fired Five Days After Disclosing Pregnancy, Medical Technician Allowed to Proceed in New Jersey Discrimination Case, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Aug. 22, 2017