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The Extent of Anti-Pregnancy Discrimination Protections for Working Women in New Jersey

Legal News GavelPregnancy 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.

Once you start a job, your employer cannot force you off the job simply because you become pregnant. In order for your employer to demand that you take leave from work, you must have lost the ability to perform the essential duties of your position. As long as you can do those duties and you desire to continue working, the employer may not force you to take leave and may not transfer you to another position or location to keep you “out of sight.”

One potentially complex area of pregnancy discrimination involves certain religious employers, such as church-affiliated schools. Religious employers are, under the First Amendment, allowed to demand that certain employees meet specified moral standards to qualify to work in that position. However, in order to be entitled to that protection, employers must apply those rules in a non-discriminatory way. Say, for example, a religious school is affiliated with a church that strongly opposes extramarital sex, and an extramarital sex prohibition term is included in school employees’ contracts. That is permissible if it is uniformly applied. However, if the only employees who ever get disciplined or fired under this policy are unmarried pregnant females, it is possible that the employer has engaged in impermissible sex discrimination.

New Jersey has also been pro-active in expanding the scope of anti-pregnancy discrimination protections. Most recently, the state enacted a new provision within the LAD that bans employment discrimination based upon an employee’s status as a breastfeeding mother. Whether you are an expectant mom, a breastfeeding mom, or a woman of childbearing age who is seeking employment, the law in New Jersey gives you rights if you’ve been a victim of discrimination. To find out about your options under the law, talk to the experienced New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys have been helping pregnant women, new moms, and other New Jersey workers for many years who have suffered from discrimination at work. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how we can help you.

More blog posts:

New Law Extends New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s Workplace Protections to Breastfeeding Mothers, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Jan. 12, 2018

Fired Five Days After Disclosing Pregnancy, Medical Technician Allowed to Proceed in New Jersey Discrimination Case, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Aug. 22, 2017

Regardless of Underlying Motives, New Jersey Employer Discriminated When it Revoked Pregnant Employee’s Promotion, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, June 21, 2017

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