A New Jersey Senate committee recently endorsed legislation that would give women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth the protection of the state’s Law Against Discrimination.
The bill, S-2995, requires employers to make reasonable accommodations, including extended leave, for pregnancy-related conditions and needs when requested by the woman on the advice of her doctor. A business is excused from making accommodations if they can demonstrate that such accommodations would lead to an undue hardship based on their cost or the size of the employer’s work force and its budget.
We have personally represented women who, while pregnant or having recently given birth, were put on unpaid leave or have been fired because of their condition. Legislation such as this could encourage employers to make adaptations, such as reducing heavy lifting for pregnant women or for new mothers, or providing greater access to water and places to sit.
The bill would overturn the state Supreme Court’s ruling in Gerety v. Atlantic City Hilton Casino, 184 N.J. 391 (2005), which held that Hilton did not violate the LAD by firing an employee who, due to a difficult pregnancy, took more time off than allowed by company leave policy. The court said pregnancy does not need to be treated differently from other medical conditions or illnesses under state and federal family-leave laws. Although Hilton’s leave policy was neutral on its face, it resulted in a disparate impact on women and clearly demonstrates the need for this legislation.
We will keep you posted on the progress of this important legislation.