Great news out of New Jersey! Yesterday, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law that protects and supports pregnant women in the workplace. The new law bans pregnancy discrimination and requires employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant workers so that they can continue working safely through their pregnancies. By signing the bill, Gov. Christie joins the unanimous New Jersey Senate and 77-1 New Jersey Assembly that support reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. As a result, fewer pregnant workers will be forced off the job at the moment they can least afford it.
While many women can work through their pregnancies without needing any type of accommodation, some women need temporary modifications in their job duties in order to continue working without compromising their health and the health of their pregnancy. Now, workers in New Jersey are no longer forced to make the impossible choice between honoring their doctor’s advice and keeping their paychecks. Pregnant workers who need simple accommodations—like, frequent bathroom and water breaks or permission to stay off high ladders—will be able to continue working and support their growing families.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) would make similar amendments to federal law. Introduced in both houses of Congress, the PWFA would require employers to make the same sorts of temporary accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions that they do for disabilities. It would prohibit an employer from firing a pregnant worker or forcing her onto unpaid leave when a reasonable accommodation would allow the employee to continue working.
With this new law, New Jersey joins Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas, and cities like New York City in requiring some or all employers to provide certain types of accommodations to pregnant workers. Hopefully other states and the federal government follow suit and adopt commonsense policies that support safe and healthy pregnancies — and keep women in the workplace when they need it most.