Articles Posted in breastfeeding accommodations

An important bipartisan bill addressing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace was introduced to the United States House of Representatives on May 14, 2019, signaling a potential shift in Congressional attitudes on this issue. While this was not the first-time legislation of this type was introduced in the House of Representatives, there is reason for optimism that changing views on workplace discrimination could lead to a different result this time. Notably, the bill has attracted bipartisan support. The bill lays the groundwork for a new law that would provide further workplace protections to women who become pregnant, give birth, or suffer from related medical conditions.

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The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA),H.R. 2694, was first introduced in the United States House of Representatives in 2012 and has been re-introduced in Congress in each subsequent session. A parallel bill (S. 1101) was also introduced in the Senate, by Senator Bob Casey, in 2017. The Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act aims to eradicate discriminatory behavior toward pregnant women by ensuring that workplace accommodations are provided to employees whose ability to perform job functions is limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. The Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act is sponsored by Representative Jerry Nadler who, after introducing the Bill this year, stated, “No woman should have to choose between a healthy pregnancy and a paycheck, especially when often a simple fix – a bottle of water during a shift, an extra bathroom break, a chair – will allow women to stay on the job and support their families throughout their pregnancy.”

If the Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act is enacted, it would conform Federal anti-discrimination law in this area to the anti-discrimination laws and policies maintained by 25 states, including New Jersey. The PWFA would:

Any woman who returns to work after a pregnancy understands how challenging it can be. For mothers who choose to breastfeed, returning to work presents an additional layer of complexity. Figuring out how, when and where to express breast milk requires the cooperation of the employer, who all too often does not understand its legal obligations to assist the mother returning to work and provide reasonable accommodations to breastfeed or express milk during work hours. Understanding your rights respecting laws to support lactating women while at work can be instrumental to continued breastfeeding success following the return to work.

In 2018, New Jersey became the 28th state to enact protections for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. Former Governor Chris Christie signed into law protections for breastfeeding employees who wish to express milk at work. Effective January 8, 2018, the law provides protections and accommodations for employees who breastfeed and wish to pump in the workplace. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination now specifically includes “breastfeeding” as a protected class which makes it unlawful to discriminate against an employee on the basis of her breastfeeding status.  The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who they know or should know breastfeeds or who needs to express milk at work for their newborn child.