On January 3, 2020, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued the first published opinion interpreting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (the “PWFA”). Effective January 17, 2014, the PWFA amended the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (the “LAD”), prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and breastfeeding. The PWFA requires employers to provide reasonable workplace accommodations to pregnant women and prohibits penalizing women for being pregnant and for using or requesting an accommodation. The PWFA requires employers, absent an undue hardship, to make reasonable accommodations, such as, bathroom breaks, water breaks, periodic rest breaks, assistance with manual labor, job restructuring, modified work schedules, and temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous work, for pregnant employees and employees recovering from childbirth or who have a pregnancy related medical condition.
The New Jersey Appellate Court recently decided Delanoy v. Township of Ocean, et al. The Police Department had a policy of providing pregnant employees with a light duty assignment, contingent upon the pregnant employee exhausting all paid-time-off prior to the commencement of the light duty position. However, the employer had a different policy for light duty assignments for non-pregnant employees, which allowed the employer to waive the required depletion of paid-time-off prior to obtaining a light duty position. In reversing the trial court’s decision in favor of the employer, the Appellate Court found, in part, that the employer’s policy unlawfully discriminated against pregnant employees, in violation of the PWFA, because it treated pregnant workers less favorably than non-pregnant workers as the regular light duty policy did not necessarily require the depletion of paid-time-off prior to obtaining a light duty position for those non-pregnant workers.
The Appellate Court also reversed the trial court on the issue of whether the employer’s attempted “accommodation” to Officer Delanoy was “reasonable,” and held that that was a decision for a jury to make.
Employers must be aware of the PWFA and their obligations under it. If employers have questions regarding their policies or their obligations under the law, please contact Parker McCay’s Labor and Employment Department.
The content of this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion. You should consult a lawyer concerning your specific situation and any specific legal question you may have.