New Jersey employment laws protect employees from discrimination on the basis of numerous factors, including pregnancy and related medical conditions. Despite some progress in recent decades, discrimination against workers who become pregnant remains a problem in New Jersey and around the country. Pregnancy discrimination violates the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and its federal counterpart, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Both federal and state laws also protect workers’ right to family and medical leave and prohibit employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees who use leave time that they have accrued. A lawsuit filed in state court in August alleges that an employer discriminated against the plaintiff on the basis of pregnancy and retaliated against her for using family leave. The defendant removed the case to federal court in early October.
Both the NJLAD and Title VII prohibit employers from taking adverse actions against employees on the basis of pregnancy. The NJLAD goes further by requiring employers to provide pregnant employees with reasonable accommodations for conditions related to their pregnancies. This may include additional breaks for water or to use the restroom, as well as leave from work as long as this does not pose an “undue burden” for the employer.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) both require covered employers to allow qualifying employees to take leave for certain reasons without any risk to their jobs. Both laws provide up to twelve weeks of leave during a twelve-month period. Reasons for leave may include caring for a newborn child. Employers may not interfere with an employee’s use of accrued leave time, nor may they retaliate against an employee for using leave.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit described above states in her complaint that she began working for the defendant in June 2020, and that she was a nominee for Employee of the Month in March 2021. She alleges that the company’s CFO began discussing a potential raise with her, “based on her performance,” at the beginning of 2021. This raise never happened, she claims, and she states a belief that the CFO withheld it “pending [her] approaching pregnancy related leave,” which she says began in April.
The defendant allegedly locked the plaintiff out of her email while she was on leave. The plaintiff claims that she remained in contact with a human resources employee during her leave and that they discussed her eligibility for FMLA leave. She was terminated, however, in June for reasons she alleges were “false and/or pretext.” She states that the termination occurred one week before the date that she would have become eligible for leave under the FMLA.
The plaintiff filed suit in a New Jersey Superior Court in late August 2021. The complaint asserts seven causes of action: pregnancy discrimination, gender discrimination, retaliation, and retaliation for exercising an accommodation related to pregnancy under the NJLAD; interference with the use of accrued leave under the FMLA and the NJFLA; and a request for equitable relief. Since the lawsuit includes claims under both state and federal law, the defendant was able to remove it to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in October.
The employment lawyers at the Resnick Law Group represent employees, former employees, and job seekers in New Jersey and New York. Please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997 to schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you with your case.