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.
The law also allows pregnant women to take leave from work. This family leave for qualifying employees can extend for up to 12 weeks. Last year, the New Jersey Attorney General settled a case against a dermatology office that was accused of engaging in pregnancy discrimination related to an employee’s maternity leave. According to the AG, the woman gave birth in October 2015 and told a co-worker in December that she planned to return to work in early 2016. She also allegedly called the employer several times in January to discuss a return date but received no response to her calls and texts. In February, the employer fired her, citing “job abandonment.” This was improper and discriminatory, according to the Attorney General.
So what are your rights if you get fired while pregnant or due to a condition related to your pregnancy? You can file an administrative claim with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights. If you file with the EEOC, and that agency issues a “right-to-sue” letter, you have 90 days to file your lawsuit. New Jersey law gives you two years from the date of the discriminatory act to bring your action.
These timelines listed above highlight the fact that acting quickly is important to protect your rights to the fullest extent. Your first step should be to reach out to experienced employment counsel. The skilled New Jersey pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates have been working diligently to represent the rights and the needs of pregnant women and new moms who have been terminated or suffered from discrimination at work for many years. 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:
The Extent of Anti-Pregnancy Discrimination Protections for Working Women in New Jersey, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, April 13, 2018
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