A New Jersey Employer Discriminated When It Forced a Pregnant Worker onto Unpaid Leave, Attorney General Says

“Reasonable.” The word can mean many different things. Google’s dictionary says that it means “fair and sensible,” “appropriate,” or something reflecting “sound judgment.” Here in New Jersey, the law requires employers to provide their pregnant workers with reasonable workplace accommodations. While the above descriptions reflect that “reasonable” is a subjective term, the law in this state sets some goalposts outside which employers may not stray when it comes to accommodating pregnant workers. If you’ve been discriminated against because of your pregnancy, that action may represent a violation of the law and may entitle you to recover compensation in court or through a settlement, so you should contact a New Jersey pregnancy discrimination lawyer right away to find out more about your options.

In the recent case of a North Jersey warehouse worker who was pregnant, the accommodation she received was essentially no accommodation at all. The woman worked in the warehouse as a “picker/packer.” In early April 2015, the woman gave her supervisor a note from her doctor that said that, as a result of the woman’s high-risk pregnancy, she needed frequent bathroom breaks and she needed to avoid lifting objects weighing more than 20 pounds.

The woman asserted that she never had to lift heavy items weighing more than 20 pounds in her regular job, but she gave the employer the note as a precautionary measure so that her employer knew she had that limitation and did not move her into a position that required heavy lifting. In fact, according to the worker, she continued in her regular job for a week after submitting the doctor’s note, and at no time during that week’s work did she ever have to lift anything weighing more than 20 pounds.

According to the Attorney General’s findings, the employer did not provide her with an appropriate accommodation. Instead of working with the employee to arrive at a reasonable solution, the employer forced the pregnant woman to take an unpaid leave of absence. Not only did the employer force the woman to go on leave, but it also prohibited her from returning to work unless she gave the employer a doctor’s note saying that she could work free from any restrictions at all. The employer did this because it had a policy of only allowing workers to work if they were free from any kind of restrictions.

A Universal Company Policy Doesn’t Negate the Obligation to Accommodate

That was impermissible discrimination. Employers cannot simply refuse to provide reasonable accommodations solely because “we have a policy.” The only basis that, under the law, permits employers to deny reasonable accommodations is proof that providing a reasonable accommodation would inflict undue hardship on the employer.

The deputy director of the Division on Civil Rights, in a statement, explained plainly that “Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or who experience pregnancy-related medical conditions must be provided with a reasonable accommodation under the law, and cannot simply be told to take a leave of absence.”

As a result of the settlement of the case, the woman received a payment of $25,000 and the employer agreed to write new accommodation policies that complied with the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, reported.

If you are someone seeking to work while pregnant or work while nursing, getting the reasonable accommodations you deserve may be an uphill battle. Don’t go it alone. Instead, contact the knowledgeable pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates to learn more about the options that you potentially can undertake, and which one makes the most sense for you. Contact us online or at (866) 229-9441 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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