New Jersey Bans Breastfeeding Discrimination

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

January 22, 2018

New Jersey has become the 18th state to enact a law to protect breastfeeding mothers from discrimination at work. In the final days before his term expired, former Governor Chris Christie signed a law to protect breastfeeding under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

Effective immediately, it is a civil rights violation for an employer to fire or otherwise discriminate against a female employee for breastfeeding or expressing her milk during breaks. An employer also may not refuse to hire a breastfeeding job applicant.

The New Jersey law requires an employer to provide reasonable break times each day, as well as a suitable room or location, other than a toilet stall, for an employee to express milk in private. This room or location should be near the employee's work area, unless the employer can show that providing the accommodation would pose an undue hardship on its business operations.

Since 2010, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has provided protections to breastfeeding mothers, but New Jersey's law goes further. For instance, the FLSA provision applies only to employers with 50 or more employees and to nonexempt workers. It also requires breastfeeding breaks only through a child's first birthday.

In contrast, New Jersey's law covers all employers regardless of size and applies to all employees in the state. Also, breastfeeding breaks under New Jersey's law are not limited to the child's first year.

More changes affecting employers could soon be on the way in the Garden State. New Governor Phil Murphy has vowed to support measures that would:

  • Increase the state minimum wage gradually to $15.00 per hour;
  • Legalize recreational marijuana;
  • Mandate earned sick leave for private employees; and
  • Ban employers asking applicants about their salary history.

It remains to be seen if these measures will come to fruition, but all are likely to move forward in the New Jersey state legislature within the next few months.