Breastfeeding is now a protected act and category under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”). Employers are prohibited from discriminating against an employee in compensation, hiring, or firing because they breastfeed. This is a pivotal amendment to New Jersey’s civil rights law as it applies, unlike the similar federal law, to employers regardless of size (the federal counterpart is applicable only to employers with 50 or more employees). 

In addition, employers must provide a reasonable accommodation to the employee to express their milk unless the employer can demonstrate that providing the accommodation would be an undue hardship on its business operations. The accommodations must include reasonable break time and a suitable room with privacy (and not a toilet stall) that is in close proximity to the work area. Unlike the federal law, the reasonable accommodation is without any limitation on time. Although federal law requires breastfeeding accommodations for up to one year, there is no limitation for the accommodation under NJLAD.

Finally, the federal law directly states that employers are not required to provide compensation to employees during the requested break time. While the New Jersey law is silent on this issue, it states that the employer must not penalize the employee for requesting or using the accommodation. So, employers should proceed cautiously when  granting a breastfeeding employee break time.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this amendment to the state’s civil rights law, please contact Christopher M. Galusha, a Labor & Employment partner in Cohen Seglias’ Newark, New Jersey office at cgalusha@cohenseglias.com or 973.474.5003.

Christopher M. Galusha is an experienced litigator with a diverse practice that includes employment law, commercial litigation, insurance matters, shareholder disputes, municipal law, and sports law. As a partner in the Firm’s Labor & Employment Group, Chris handles wrongful discharge, discrimination, sexual harassment, and hostile work environment claims.