Federal Budget Bill Includes New Legal Protections for New Jersey Workers Against Pregnancy Discrimination

The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) of 2023 became law on December 29, 2022. The bill includes two new laws, originally introduced as separate bills, that address pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. While New Jersey employment law provides a rather wide range of protections for employees who are pregnant or have recently given birth, federal law is still catching up. These new laws address the physical needs and limitations that often accompany pregnancy and childbirth, which may require accommodations in the workplace. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) prohibits discrimination based on “known limitations” associated with pregnancy or childbirth. The Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers (PUMP) Act addresses the need for employees with newborns to have break time and a private location to express breast milk. Some provisions of the laws became effective immediately, while others will take effect later in 2023.

New Jersey Pregnancy Discrimination Law

Both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) prohibit discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and associated medical conditions. The NJLAD goes a step further than federal law by specifically requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, such as extra breaks for water or to use the restroom, modified work schedules, and lifting restrictions. At the federal level, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) arguably provides this for at least some conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, but it does not address reasonable accommodations in those specific contexts.

The NJLAD and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) both require employers to provide employees who are breastfeeding their children with a private location other than a restroom where they can express milk. Section 7(r) of the FLSA specifically states that employers are not obligated to pay employees for time spent exercising these rights.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The PWFA, located in Division II of the CAA, applies to employers with fifteen or more employees. It prohibits discrimination based on “known limitations” related to pregnancy or childbirth. The law specifies that a “known limitation” does not have to satisfy the definition of “disability” found in the ADA.

Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees, using the same standard for reasonable accommodations as the ADA. They must engage in an “interactive process” with an employee requesting a reasonable accommodation to determine what will work best. The law takes effect “180 days after the date of enactment” on June 27, 2023.

Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act

The PUMP Act, found in Division KK of the CAA, applies to most employers, although employers with fewer than fifty employees may claim an exemption based on undue hardship. The law amends the FLSA by adding a new section entitled “Breastfeeding Accommodations in the Workplace.” Many of the provisions are the same as those found in § 7(r), but the PUMP Act specifies that an employer must pay the employee for time spent on a break unless they are “completely relieved from duty during the entirety of such break.”

The rights provided by the law became effective as soon as the CAA became law. Employees facing pregnancy discrimination may bring civil suits for violations of the PUMP Act beginning on April 28, 2023.

If you have experienced unlawful workplace practices in New Jersey or New York, you have rights under state and federal law. You need an experienced advocate to help you assert those rights. Please contact the employment lawyers at the Resnick Law Group today at 973-781-1204, 646-867-7997, or online to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.

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