January 24, 2014
This week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that expands employment protections for women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees on the advice of their physicians. The New Jersey law imposes new requirements similar to the robust accommodation obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which do not apply to pregnancy because it is not considered a disability under the ADA. Accommodations may include bathroom breaks, periodic rest, job restructuring, a modified work schedule or a temporary transfer to less physically demanding or hazardous work. To deny the accommodation, employers will have to prove "undue hardship" on their business operations, which could include the nature and cost of the accommodation, and the extent to which the proposed accommodation would involve waiving an essential job requirement. New Jersey is now the ninth state to impose this requirement (in addition to AK, CA, CT, HI, IL, LA, MD, NJ, and TX), which could provide some momentum to legislation in Congress (H.R. 1975/S. 942) to enact a federal law along the same lines.