Breastfeeding in the Workplace – Protections for Employees and Requirements for Employers

Before former Governor Chris Christie left office, he signed into law a bill amending the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to include protections for women breastfeeding. Now, the Law Against Discrimination specifically includes “breastfeeding” as a protected trait, with other traits such as race and sex.  This means that the Law Against Discrimination prohibits discrimination against an employee on the basis of that person breastfeeding.

The law goes a step further as well with additional requirements for employers.  The law prohibits less favorable treatment of women who the employer knows or should know is breastfeeding.  The law requires employers to provide breastfeeding women with very specific accommodations.  The employer must provide the breastfeeding employee with reasonable break time every day to express milk.  Additionally, the employer must provide a suitable room or other private location for the employee to express milk.  The Law Against Discrimination specifically prohibits employers from providing a bathroom or bathroom stall as the private location or suitable room.  The room or location must be in close proximity to the employee’s work area.  As with other accommodations, an employer may be excused from providing such accommodations if the accommodation would result in an undue hardship to the employer.

Many times employers lay out their policies regarding being an equal opportunity employer, accommodations, and requests for accommodations in their employee handbooks.  In light of these changes to the Law Against Discrimination, all employers should re-evaluate their current practices and have an attorney review and update their employee handbooks to include the new requirements related to breastfeeding.

If you have any questions about whether your current practices or employee handbook comply with the new Law Against Discrimination, please contact any member of Archer & Greiner’s Labor Group in Haddonfield, N.J., at (856) 795-2121, in Princeton, N.J., at (609) 580-3700, in Hackensack, N.J., at (201) 342-6000, in Philadelphia, Pa., at (215) 963-3300, or in Wilmington, Del., at (302) 777-4350.