Pregnancy just got a little bit sweeter for New Jersey employees. Aside from having that “pregnancy glow” and the joy of knowing that you are bringing life into the world, expecting mothers now have the right to reasonable accommodation in New Jersey. A new New (yeah, Mircrosoft word, I did mean to say new twice) Jersey law reinforces the already strong New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJ LAD) and states that employers must offer reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees (as well as new mothers) and cannot discriminate against an employee for pregnancy related reasons. Go moms!
What happens when a pregnant employee’s performance quality drops and accommodations you make aren’t working to keep your employee on track? Can you terminate the worker without risking litigation?
A recent Iowa case sheds some light on this issue. In Elam v. Regions Financial Corp, a bank teller, Elam, became pregnant and, at the request of her doctor, was allowed a flexible schedule that would allow her to start her day when her morning sickness had subsided. However, Elam refused the accommodation and showed up to work at the normal time each day. She would leave her post 4 to 11 times each morning to use the bathroom, often in the middle of customer transactions, which forced other tellers to cover for her. She had other performance issues as well, including failure to secure a cash drawer, leaving cash unattended at her teller station, and laying her head on the counter of her station – all of which were attributed to her morning sickness. She was reprimanded for these problems and was again encouraged to come to work once the morning sickness subsided. Again, Elam refused the accommodation and was then fired after showing up late to a mandatory training meeting. The Court found that the employer was not required to give “special treatment” and provided a lengthy list of non-discriminatory reasons for firing the employee.
The attorneys at Dickinson Mackaman have written an article on this case that illustrates the difference between making an accommodation and providing “special treatment.” To read “Takeaways from Recent Pregnancy Discrimination Cases Brought Against Iowa Employers,” click here.