New Jersey Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyers
Pregnancy is a time of anticipation, joy, and excitement. Unfortunately, it can also be a time of uncertainty and fear, especially for expectant mothers with careers. Although women have been told since the 1970’s that they can “have it all,” the New Jersey legislature recently admitted that women were still “being removed from their positions, placed on unpaid leave, or fired” because of their pregnancy and concluded that “pregnant women are vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace in New Jersey.” Fortunately, there are laws in New Jersey that can help.
New Jersey Pregnancy Discrimination Law. Since the 1990’s, most expectant mothers have been legally entitled to pregnancy leave under state and federal law. However, up until recently, no New Jersey law clearly protected pregnant mothers from workplace discrimination. Instead, courts struggled to find some protection for pregnant mothers within the New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination’s (“LAD”) prohibitions against gender and disability discrimination. That changed in 2014.
In January 2014, New Jersey enacted the New Jersey Pregnant Worker’s Fairness Act (NJPWFA), which amended New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) to expressly prohibit pregnancy discrimination, and to require that employers provide “reasonable accommodations” for the health, safety and comfort of expectant mothers.
Differential Treatment. The NJPWFA provides expectant mothers with the strongest legal protection against pregnancy discrimination. It added pregnant mothers to the classes of workers entitled to protection under the meaning, and it is now illegal for an employer to treat a pregnant employee, or even one the employer should know is pregnant, any worse than employees who are not pregnant.
Unlike the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), which has been around since the 1970’s but only applies to employers with more than 15 employees, the NJPWFA applies to any non-federal employer no matter what size.
Also, the PDA and the NJPWFA both give victims of pregnancy discrimination the right to sue for money damages and attorneys' fees. However, under the federal law, employees must first file their claim with the EEOC within 180 days of the discrimination and get a “right to sue” letter before they are allowed to bring their case to court. On the other hand, under the NJPWFA, victims of pregnancy discrimination can take their case right to court, and have up to two years from the date of the discrimination to do so.
Pregnancy and Child Birth Leave. The new law, the NJPWFA, does not deal with pregnancy leave other than to require that pregnant employees be given the same right to paid or unpaid leave as other employees. Your right to pregnancy leave comes from two other laws, one at the federal level, and one at the state level. The federal law is called the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). The New Jersey law, the Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”) is similar, but with a couple of important differences.
How We Can Help. At Lawrence & Gerges we strongly support the right of pregnant mothers to be free from discrimination and applaud the legislature’s passage of the NJPWFA. We are experienced trial lawyers with the background in employment discrimination law who are able to take a case all the way from the investigative phase through settlement or trial.
If you believe your employer has discriminated against you due to your pregnancy, call us at (908) 845-3535 for a free consultation at our Springfield Offices. If you are comfortable with us, and we believe you have a strong enough case, we will be willing to represent you on a contingent fee retainer meaning we will not ask you for money up front, and will only get paid if and when we get money for you. (See Silvia’s blog, 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Pay a Lawyer in an Employment Case.)