What is Pregnancy Discrimination?

New Jersey’s Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) In A Nutshell

By Jay Chatarpaul, Esq.

On January 21, 2014, New Jersey enacted the Pregnant Worker’s Fairness Act (PWFA), as an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD).  The PWFA makes it illegal to discriminate against a pregnant woman in any way. Any female employee affected by pregnancy is covered regardless of the size of the company.

Under the PWFA, a pregnant employee need not request any special accommodation because of her pregnancy (although in practice such a request should be made).  The law requires all employers to provide preferential treatment to a pregnant person. The PWFA offers significantly more protection than the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which requires only that the employer not discriminate against a pregnant person.

Any employer who fails to offer preferential treatment to a pregnant woman may face liability even if the employer does not know the employee is pregnant or “affected” by “pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, including recovery from childbirth.”  Under the PWFA, if a pregnant person’s job performance becomes deficient, an employer may not use that as a reason for termination. The employer must and is required to accommodate the employee’s pregnancy, including, but not limited to providing adequate bathroom breaks, sufficient breaks to drink water, periodic rest, modified work schedules, assistance with job functions and duties, and taking adequate measures to ensure that the pregnant employee does not do any type of work that would put a strain on her pregnancy.  An employer may deny these accommodations only if doing so would impose an “undue burden” on the employer.

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