NJ and NY Pending Legislation Expands Protections to Pregnant Workers

By Maxiel Gomez, Esq.

New Jersey

On September 30, 2013, legislation was introduced in New Jersey that would prohibit workplace discrimination against women because of pregnancy, childbirth and related medical condition.   Senator Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, sponsored the bill (S-2995) that would amend the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to include pregnancy as a protected class.  Specifically, the bill provides that it shall be unlawful for an employer to treat a woman affected by pregnancy in a manner less favorable than the treatment of other persons not affected by pregnancy but similar in their ability or inability to work.  In the past, employees alleging discrimination based on pregnancy were treated as disability or gender discrimination claims.  However, if enacted, this bill would explicitly prohibit discrimination based on pregnancy.  In addition to preventing discrimination, the bill would also require that employers make reasonable accommodations for an employee’s needs related to the pregnancy when, with the advice of a physician, the employee requests an accommodation.

New York

On September 24, 2013, the New York City Council amended the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) to prohibit discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.  Although pregnancy was already a protected status under NYCHRL, the amendment created an additional right of action against employers that fail to provide a reasonable accommodation to pregnant women. The Council’s report described reasonable accommodations to include bathroom breaks, leaves of absence for disability arising from childbirth, periodic rest and assistance with manual labor. The bill becomes effective 120 days after enactment if approved by the Mayor’s office.  The bill is  expected to be signed into law effective early 2014.

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