Breastfeeding mothers have expanded protection from discrimination at work, thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Chris Christie this week.
The law, an amendment to New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), requires employers of all sizes to afford breastfeeding employees reasonable accommodation to nurse or pump milk. Employers are required to provide a reasonable break time and suitable room — other than a toilet stall — close to work for nursing or pumping.
The amendment also protects employees from punishment for requesting such accommodations. The previous law was broader and specified pregnancy rather than breastfeeding.
“This law is significant in that, in the past, many new moms have had no choice but to abandon the workforce because their employers would not accommodate their need to breastfeed,” said Traci M. Greenberg, associate at Sidney L. Gold Associates.
New Jersey is the 18th state to provide state-level breastfeeding rights, according to the Department of Labor. On the national level under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), breastfeeding protection is only offered to women working for a company with 50 or more employees.
“Previously, for employers in New Jersey with under 50 employees, [whether a woman was offered reasonable breaks and space for nursing] depended on the employer’s original policy,” said Punam P. Alam, associate at Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis in Woodbridge. “And unlike the FSLA, under New Jersey Law, there’s now no one-year limitation to how long employers need to accommodate nursing mothers.”
In the case that employer is unable to accommodate, he or she must prove that the accommodation would present undue hardship on the business operations.