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Employers cannot discriminate because of pregnancy

Despite there being laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against women because of pregnancy, that sort of discrimination remains a problem in New Jersey and across the country. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reportedly received 2,790 pregnancy discrimination complaints in 2018 alone, and a staff attorney for the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union said that figure likely underestimates the number of workers who are impacted by pregnancy discrimination.

The ACLU staff attorney also pointed out that the number of complaints for pregnancy discrimination increased by almost 50% from 1997 to 2011. According to an estimate by the National Partnership on Women and Families, as many as 250,000 pregnant women annually do not receive the accommodations they are entitled to under the law. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978, amending the already-existing Civil Rights Act. Under the PDA, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against a worker due to childbirth, pregnancy or a medical condition related to childbirth or pregnancy.

An Obama Administration guidance issued in 2015 clarified the PDA, saying that it covers all aspects of both pregnancy and employment. With regard to employment, it prohibits discrimination in promotion, firing, hiring, health insurance benefits and other areas. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers cannot prohibit workers from pumping breast milk at work. Pregnancy cannot be grounds for different treatment by an employer; if it is used as such, that may give rise to actionable claims.

Individuals in New Jersey who believe they have been discriminated against at work due to pregnancy or another protected characteristic may want to meet with an attorney. An attorney who practices employment law may be able to help by examining the facts of the case and identifying potential causes of action and liable parties. An attorney might draft a workplace discrimination complaint for damages or work to negotiate a settlement with the employer.

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