Federal and state laws protect New Jersey employees against discrimination on the basis of disability and other factors. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits discrimination and requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” for employees with disabilities. One area of ongoing dispute in employment law involves whether employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are pregnant or have recently given birth. The ADA does not specifically mention pregnancy or related conditions. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), however, specifically requires employers to make reasonable accommodations available in cases of disability, pregnancy, and religious practices. The “reasonableness” of a particular accommodation can be a subject of dispute under both New Jersey disability discrimination laws and federal disability discrimination laws. A new law in New York City, which will take effect in October 2018, will require employers to engage in “cooperative dialogue” with employees who are requesting an accommodation for multiple possible situations. Int. No. 804-2015-A (NYC, Jan. 19, 2018).
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, sex, and other factors, with “on the basis of sex” defined to include pregnancy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(k), 2000e-2(a)(1). The statute does not address accommodations for religious observances or the various needs associated with pregnancy and childbirth. The ADA includes a failure to provide reasonable accommodations within its list of discriminatory practices, with an exception if the accommodation “would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business.” Id. at § 12112(b)(5)(A). It defines “disability” to include a range of “physical or mental impairment[s].” Id. at § 12102(1).
The NJLAD prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of disability, religion, sex, pregnancy, and multiple other factors. N.J. Rev. Stat. § 10:5-12(a). The definition of “disability” is similar to that of the ADA and includes various conditions “caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness.” Id. at § 10:5-5(q). An employer violates the NJLAD by denying employment to “an otherwise qualified person” because of a disability, unless the employer can “clearly show” that a person’s particular disability “would prevent such person from performing a particular job.” Id. at § 10:5-29.1.
Under the NJLAD, employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, pregnant employees, and employees with “sincerely held religious practice[s] or religious observance[s].” Id. at § 10:5-12(q). In cases involving pregnancy, reasonable accommodations might include “bathroom breaks, breaks for increased water intake, [and] periodic rest.” Id. at § 10:5-12(s). An employer can get out of this obligation if it can show that providing an accommodation “would be an undue hardship on [its] business operations.” Id. at §§ 10:5-12(q)(3), (s).
The law set to take effect in New York City in October 2018 will amend the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) to require “cooperative dialogue” between employers and employees regarding requested accommodations for “religious needs,” disability, pregnancy and related conditions, and domestic violence or stalking. Int. No. 804-2015-A § 2. It defines “cooperative dialogue” as “good faith…written or oral dialogue” regarding the requested accommodation, difficulties faced by the employer in providing the accommodation, and possible alternatives for the employee. Id. at § 1. A failure by an employer to engage in such dialogue will constitute an unlawful discriminatory practice under the NYCHRL.
If you are involved in a dispute with your employer regarding reasonable accommodations in New Jersey or New York, contact the employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.
More Blog Posts:
Jury Awards $11.8 Million to Former Employee in New Jersey Disability Discrimination Case, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, September 12, 2017
New York City Lawsuit Alleges Discrimination Based on Mental Health Conditions, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, October 6, 2016
Supreme Court Refuses to Review Decision That States Employers in New York and Nationwide Must Provide Disabled Workers With Reasonable Accommodations, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, June 29, 2013