As the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office clearly stated in a recent press release, “No parent should be forced to choose between their job and caring for or breastfeeding their child… New Jersey law protects a parent’s right to take leave to care for a newborn child and to return to the same position after leave. It also protects a parent’s right to breastfeed a child.” As an expectant parent, you know that those first weeks and months are something that you can never experience again with that child, and that the bonding that takes place during those early months is vitally important to your child. When you suffer workplace harm because you took leave following your delivery, or because you’re breastfeeding your baby, that’s against the law. Take action by contacting an experienced New Jersey employment attorney right away.
One way you can help yourself when you are expecting a child is by knowing your rights. A recent case that was reported by the Hudson Reporter is a good illustration of how helpful knowing your rights when it comes to family leave can be.
Here in New Jersey, you are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period (if you’ve worked at least 1,250 hours during the last 12 months) under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) gives you up to 12 weeks of leave in a 24-month period if you’ve worked at least 1,000 hours in the previous 12 months.
How your pregnancy may entitle you to take, not 12, but 24 weeks of leave
As an expectant mom, you may wonder… can I stack those two periods of leave after I have my new baby? Potentially yes. It is, however, important to understand the specifics of how that works. The FMLA allows you to take leave for your “own disabling condition, care for a family member with serious illness, [or] childcare within a year after birth.” The bases for NJFLA leave include a seriously ill family member or the birth of your child. Note that the NJFLA does not include your own disabling condition as a valid basis.
To stack your leaves and get 24 weeks, you have to assert two valid and different bases for leave. In the Hudson County case, the employee was a marketing director who was a new mom. She first sought leave of 12 weeks under the FMLA for her own disabling condition, which was recovery from childbirth. After that leave expired, she took an additional 12 weeks of leave under the NJFLA in order to care for her infant child, according to the Reporter.
Not only does the law allow you to do this, the law also says that your employer is forbidden from retaliating against you for doing so. In this marketing director’s situation, the employer allegedly engaged in that sort of retaliation. The employer allegedly reduced the director’s role at the company and later fired the new mom for refusing to take a two-week international business trip while she was still breastfeeding her infant, according to the report. That termination occurred even though the new mom produced a note from a pediatrician declaring that the trip posed a serious health risk to the child.
If you experienced a scenario like this, you might have a very powerful case with several strong claims. These claims could include improper retaliation for using family/medical leave, as well as pregnancy discrimination (as discriminating against a breastfeeding mother is a form of pregnancy discrimination.)
If you’ve been harmed because you took leave following the birth of child, or because of your breastfeeding your child, you may have a winning claim that could yield substantial compensation. The knowledgeable New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates are here to help. Our attorneys offer many years of experience in successfully representing parents in discrimination and family leave cases. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation to discuss how we can put the power of this office to work for you.