The state of New Jersey is widely known for its progressive stance on numerous social issues, and particularly for its Law Against Discrimination. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) has long been praised as an example and goal both for other states and for the country at large.  Recently, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) of 2023, passing two new laws specifically protecting the rights of pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. Though the law is not as comprehensive as those extended under the NJLAD, it still provides valuable benefits.

Though the CAA was signed into law in late 2022, its two regulations will not take effect until 2023, with the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers (PUMP) Act taking effect on April 28th and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act becoming effective on June 27th. The first extends the protections described under the Affordable Care Act for breastfeeding and pumping mothers and the second ensures that certain employers provide workplace accommodations for the “known limitations” that are associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

Looking at each of the laws covered by the CAA individual, the PUMP Act makes sure that both exempt and non-exempt workers are covered by the protections established by the Affordable Care Act, guaranteeing that all nursing mothers are provided with reasonable break time to express breast milk, as well as with a private environment other than a bathroom in which they are able to pump. The law specifies that this location be free from intrusion and view, and that each nursing mother is able to access this accommodation for up to two years after the time that they give birth.

Smaller companies that employ fewer than 50 employees are granted a waiver of the rule if providing this accommodation would impose an undue hardship on their business. There’s also a provision that requires covered employers to let their employers know if they’re not in compliance, providing them 10 days in which to fix the situation. Notably, if an employer terminates an employee for having made the request or if they refuse to comply, the ten-day notification period is waived. Every remedy that is currently available under FLSA becomes available to those who have suffered violations of the Act.

The second law included within the CAA is the PWFA. This regulation only applies to businesses that employ 15 or more employees. It targets the “known limitations” of pregnancy and/or childbirth and prohibits qualifying businesses from discriminating against employees affected by these limitations. It requires these employees to make the same type of reasonable accommodations in an “interactive process” as required under the ADA for employees who fall into this category and who need them.

While even more comprehensive laws applying these protections have long been extended to New Jersey employees, it is still noteworthy and important that the federal government is following New Jersey’s lead. While New Jersey also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, many legal experts believe that some of the accommodations required under the Americans with Disabilities Act will bridge the gap between the two.

Though these laws have not yet gone into effect, it is important for employees to be aware of their rights. If you believe that your rights have been violated by an employer that is not in compliance with either New Jersey or federal law, contact our employment discrimination law firm today to see how we can help.