New Jersey family and medical leave laws provide eligible workers with guaranteed time off from work for the birth of a child. State and federal laws also protect workers from discrimination by their employers because of pregnancy or childbirth. A company that operates a hospital in Middlesex County, New Jersey, recently settled a lawsuit brought by a former employee alleging discrimination on the basis of both pregnancy and medical leave. The settlement includes $500,000 in damages, plus attorney’s fees.
At the federal level, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees of covered employers up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave per year for certain purposes, such as the birth of a child or a serious illness. 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1). The eligibility criteria are based on both the total number of employees and the number of hours worked by each individual employee. See id. at §§ 2611(2)(A), (4)(A). Employers may not interfere with employees seeking to exercise their rights under these laws, nor may they discriminate against anyone for taking legally authorized leave. Id. at § 2615(a). The New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) provides similar rights and protections, with some differences. See N.J. Rev. Stat. §§ 34:11B-3(e), (f); 34:11B-4; 34:11B-9.
Both federal and New Jersey antidiscrimination statutes prohibit discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or childbirth. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 defines pregnancy and childbirth discrimination as a form of sex discrimination. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e(k), 2000e-2(a). The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of “familial status,” which includes “being the natural parent of a child” and “any person who is pregnant.” N.J. Rev. Stat. §§ 10:5-5(ll), 10:5-12(a).
The plaintiff in the New Jersey lawsuit mentioned above reportedly worked for the defendant from 2006 to early 2015. She stated in her complaint that the defendant promoted her three times between 2006 and 2012. She started as a “Field Service Coordinator,” and held the position of “Regional Executive Director” when she was terminated. According to her complaint, after she notified her supervisor of her pregnancy in mid-2014, the defendant allegedly “interfered with [her] ability to perform her job duties” and “unjustly criticized her performance.”
She took medical leave from November 2014 to January 2015. Upon her return to work, she claimed that her supervisor canceled multiple scheduled meetings with her, and that she was terminated on pretextual grounds two weeks later.
The lawsuit, filed in October 2016, alleged discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and the use of authorized medical leave. It asserted causes of action under Title VII, the NJLAD, the FMLA, and the NJFLA. The defendant offered to settle in January 2019 for $500,000 in damages, including “lost wages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, interest, and all other types of damages.” The plaintiff accepted this offer, and the court entered judgment in March 2019. The defendant reportedly also agreed to pay $250,000 in attorney’s fees.
The knowledgeable and experienced employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group advocate for the family medical leave rights of employees and job seekers in New Jersey and New York. Please contact us at 973-781-1204, at 646-867-7997, or online today to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team.