Breastfeeding at work is now protected under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), signed by former Governor Chris Christie earlier this year. Prior to the enactment of this law, breastfeeding mothers had to rely on federal law for protection. Under the NJLAD, New Jersey employers must allow its employees to take breaks to breastfeed or express their milk and ensure they have a suitable, private place next to their workstation to do so. Moreover, the law sets forth that a bathroom does not constitute a suitable place for breastfeeding or expressing milk.
The passing of this law amends New Jersey’s civil rights law. The new legislation protects employees from being discriminated against because they breastfeed. Breastfeeding is added as a protected activity for employees and employers cannot discriminate against nursing mothers.
This law supports equal treatment for breastfeeding employees and non-breastfeeding employees, including employee policies regarding compensation for breaks. Employers must treat breastfeeding breaks as any other break and with similar compensation. If other employees are compensated for breaks, nursing mothers must also receive compensation for breastfeeding breaks. Conversely, if workers were not already compensated for break periods, an employer is not required to compensate for breastfeeding breaks either.
Nationally, less than a quarter of mothers can breastfeed their babies for six months exclusively. Breastfeeding reduces an infant’s risk of ailments, infections and hospitalization. Breastfeeding advocates contend that with the passing of this breastfeeding law, New Jersey, has set the bar high in its efforts to support breastfeeding mothers.
While there are no exemptions for employers, as with all workplace accommodations, to avoid liability for discrimination against breastfeeding mothers, employers who do not abide by the new rules must prove that the accommodations required under the law create an “undue hardship on business operations” for the employer.
If you are a breastfeeding mother that has been denied the right to breastfeed or express your milk during the work day, have not been provided with a suitable space to pump your milk, or have experienced an adverse employment action due to breastfeeding, please contact a member of our New Jersey employment law legal team so that we can help.