Employers should take note of the newly effective Pregnant Worker’s Fairness Act as well as two updated wage and hour posters that they must post in the workplace.
On January 21, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the Pregnant Worker’s Fairness Act (PWFA) into law, and New Jersey joined a growing number of jurisdictions that require employers to provide workplace accommodations to employees who are “affected by pregnancy,” regardless of whether those employees are “disabled” and regardless of whether the requested accommodations are necessary for the employees to perform the essential functions of their jobs. In addition to the new regulations regarding pregnant employees, employers should be aware of newly updated wage and hour posting and notice obligations.
The PWFA—an amendment to the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD)—expressly bans pregnancy discrimination and imposes new workplace accommodation requirements on employers. The PWFA is effective immediately and applies to all employers in New Jersey (except federal employers). Although the new law expressly provides that it does not extend a pregnant employee’s entitlement to a leave of absence, the PWFA goes significantly further than its federal law counterparts—the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—in the protections that it affords to pregnant employees.
For example, the PWFA compels employers to make reasonable workplace accommodations for female employees who the employer “knows or should know” are “affected by pregnancy”—i.e., women who are pregnant and women who have medical conditions relating to pregnancy or childbirth—regardless of whether those employees would be considered “disabled” under the ADA or NJLAD. Potential accommodations identified in the PWFA include providing bathroom breaks, breaks for increased water intake, periodic rest, modified work schedules, assistance with manual labor, and temporary transfers to less strenuous or hazardous work.
Employers with operations in New Jersey should update employee handbooks and policies covering reasonable accommodations and should train managers and human resources personnel on the effect of this new amendment. An understanding of the PWFA is particularly important in light of the broad remedies available to employees under the NJLAD, which include equitable relief and compensatory and punitive damages.
Additionally, the beginning of a new year is an appropriate time for employers to take stock of the posting and notice obligations imposed by New Jersey law. In January, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDLWD) released a revised minimum wage poster reflecting the current minimum wage rate of $8.25 per hour, which became effective January 1. The NJDLWD also recently revised the wage payment poster to include the following information:
Although there is no express deadline for posting the revised documents, New Jersey employers should do so as soon as possible. As a reminder, New Jersey requires covered employers to post or distribute notice of several other laws, including the following:
If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:
. For more information on the PWFA, see out January 10, 2014 LawFlash, “New Jersey Assembly Passes Pregnancy Discrimination Bill.”
. For more information on the poster, see our December 13, 2013 LawFlash, “Publication of New Jersey Gender Equity Notice Triggers Obligations.”
. For more information on the notice, see our September 22, 2004 LawFlash, “New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act Is Amended To Include A New Notice Obligation On Employers.”
. For more information on the requirements, see our November 14, 2011 LawFlash, “New Jersey Department of Labor Issues a New Mandatory Notice Regarding Recordkeeping Requirements.”
. For more information on the notice, see our April 17, 2008 LawFlash, “New Jersey to Provide Payments to Workers Taking Leave to Care for Dependent Family Members.”