In 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) received the largest number of complaints of pregnancy discrimination in its history. Pregnancy discrimination has been increasing since at least 1992. Pregnancy discrimination in New Jersey, New York and nationally continues to be a major problem.
It is illegal to discriminate against pregnant mothers. Pregnancy discrimination in New York and New Jersey is barred by law. Employers may not refuse to hire pregnant women, fire pregnant women, or lay employees off because of their pregnancy, harass or transfer them because of their pregnancy, or shift them to work that is perceived as “safer” or “lighter.” The only exception is that transfers can be made as a legitimate accommodation for the specific medical needs of a particular employee.
Employers are permitted to ask the estimated delivery date and expected length of leave before and after delivery, but they are not allowed to ask for a specific date that pregnancy leave will begin. Employers must rehire mothers after delivery, and make reasonable accommodations beforehand.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 likewise prohibits pregnancy discrimination. In 1978, Congress enacted the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act amended Title VII to include pregnancy discrimination as sex discrimination. It also prohibits discrimination based on medical conditions related to pregnancy. It provides that if an employer offers a health plan, pregnancy must be a covered condition. However, the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, being part of Title VII, only covers employers with 50 or more employees.
New York Law
The New York State Human Rights Law prohibits pregnancy discrimination. It has a one-year statute of limitations. Also, only employers with four or more employees are covered.
The New York City Council has also adopted its own New York City Human Rights Law, which also bars pregnancy discrimination. New York City’s Human Rights Law, like New York State’s Human Rights Law, only covers employers with four or more employees.
Pregnancy-related leave is required by law. The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMA”) requires that employers with 50 or more employees provide 12 weeks of leave to employers who have worked for at least 12 months for no less than 1,250 hours to care for a newborn or a newly adopted child. New Jersey’s Family Leave Act (“FLA”) provides similar coverage, but the hour requirement for covered employees is only 1,000 hours.
In 2008, the legislature enacted the New Jersey Paid Family Leave Act, becoming the third state to offer paid family leave. The Paid Family Leave Act provides for 6 weeks of paid disability, including care for a newborn or a newly adopted child. Unlike the Federal FMLA or the New Jersey FLA, New Jersey’s Paid Family Leave Act covers all employees.
McLaughlin & Nardi’s attorneys are experienced at representing employees and employers in pregnancy discrimination, and indeed cases regarding all forms of discrimination claims, for both employees and employers. For more information or how we can be of assistance, please visit our website, e-mail us, or call one of our attorneys at (973) 890-0004.