A New Jersey woman fired by her North Bergen employer is the subject of a pregnancy discrimination claim being pursued by the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights. The woman has accused VCNY Home of failing to provide her with the full amount of time allowed by the state’s family leave laws following the birth of her child, as well as of retaliating against her and eventually firing her after she filed her complaint.
The woman had been hired as the company’s marketing director in 2016 and was responsible for the firm’s development and implementation of marketing campaigns, promotional events and digital marketing. But when she notified her employer that —as permitted by state law — she planned to use both the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the additional 12 weeks of leave provided by New Jersey’s Family Leave Act, a conflict arose.
Despite the fact that under New Jersey law the ability to use the state’s Family Leave Act is not negated by first taking FMLA to recover from childbirth, her employer indicated that she needed to return to work on June 18th 2018 or have her failure to do so viewed as a resignation. In a letter, the organization claimed that the two laws run concurrently.
While on leave she filed a complaint with the Division of Civil Rights, and after her return to work she amended that complaint to indicate that when she did return to work in July, she faced multiple forms of retaliation including exclusion from projects and meetings and a diminishment of her role within the company. She was eventually terminated after refusing to participate in a business trip that would have taken her to India and China for two weeks while she was still breastfeeding her child. After first investigating the case, DCR issued a Finding of Probably Cause against the company, then attempted a conciliation process that failed. The case will now move to the Office of Administrative Law.
Speaking to the goals of New Jersey’s Family Medical Leave Act, DCR Director Rachel Wainer Apter said, “No parent should be forced to choose between their job and caring for or breastfeeding their child. And it is all too common for mothers, in particular, to be sidelined at work after they return from leave. That is illegal. New Jersey law protects a parent’s right to take leave to care for a newborn child and to return to the same position after leave. It also protects a parent’s right to breastfeed a child; employers must grant reasonable accommodations to employees who are breastfeeding unless doing so would be an undue burden on their operations.”
In New Jersey, employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of protected leave to care for a newborn, even after having used up to 12 weeks of FMLA due to disability caused by pregnancy. In addition, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination provide even more additional time beyond the FMLA if medically necessary, and if the employer can provide reasonable accommodations of additional leave without undue hardship. If you believe that you are being discriminated against, contact our firm today to learn more about your options.