Breastfeeding seminars

Nursing mother wins settlement, claims NJ Jobs ‘avenged’

NEW JERSEY – A mother who complained that her North Jersey-based business was making things difficult during and after her maternity leave has won a $195,000 settlement from the state’s Civil Rights Division, have officials said Wednesday.

The mother accused, among other things, the North Bergen manufacturing company of trying to deny her disability and maternity leave, then later making it difficult for her to work there as a mother. breastfeeding – in one case, planning a two-week trip for her to China and India.

When the mother refused to make the trip because she was breastfeeding, she said, she was turned away.

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The state attorney general’s office said on Wednesday the company had offered to pay for the woman’s newborn baby to travel with her, as well as a childcare provider, but the baby’s pediatrician advised against it. . The company, VCNY, ultimately fired her for her “inability or unwillingness to perform an essential job function.”

Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced Wednesday that the Civil Rights Division had secured the $195,000 settlement on behalf of the woman, who was a former corporate marketing executive.

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The woman had claimed to have suffered “retaliation” for taking her maternity leave and was “seeking reasonable accommodation related to breastfeeding.”

According to the complaint, when the woman was on maternity leave in 2018, she informed VCNY that once her disability-related leave for her pregnancy under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) ended, she planned to start an additional 12 days. weeks of leave available under the New Jersey family leave law.

According to the attorney general, VCNY responded with a letter in March 2018 advising that the time of the federal FMLA and the state family leave law were running concurrently.

The letter ordered her to return to work on June 18, 2018, and warned her that if she did not, the company would consider it her resignation.

But under New Jersey law, an employee who gives birth and first uses FMLA federal leave time to recover from the birth of a child does not exhaust the additional leave time available for bonding available in under the New Jersey family leave law.

An employee may begin taking leave under the Family Leave Act when the employee’s leave time under federal law ends.

The woman filed her complaint with the Civil Rights Division in April 2018. Following the complaint, VCNY allowed the employee to use the leave to which she was entitled under New Jersey’s family leave law.

She was back at work months later, but was then made redundant in October 2018.

She then filed an amended complaint with the DCR alleging that her dismissal and the workplace actions that preceded it were retaliatory.

In addition to the two-week trip, the amended complaint alleged that when she returned to work after giving birth, VCNY deliberately excluded her from projects and meetings she had previously attended.

During the DCR investigation, VCNY officials admitted to reducing her role after she returned from maternity leave in the summer of 2018. They also admitted to excluding her from certain meetings and events, but attributed the changes to a “restructuring” of the marketing department.

According to the attorney general’s office, “the settlement resolves the ex-employee’s complaint that her employer violated both New Jersey’s Family Leave Law and the Anti-Discrimination Law in its treatment of her.” .

In addition to monetary payment to cover lost wages, emotional distress and punitive damages, the settlement requires VCNY to ensure its employees are informed of their rights to breastfeeding and pregnancy-related accommodations. , and to provide anti-discrimination training to all human resources. employees, supervisors, managers and owners, among other reforms.

“In New Jersey, we are committed to protecting the right of workers to have both a job and a family,” Platkin said. “No one should have to choose between having children and making a living.”

For a fact sheet on pregnancy and breastfeeding rights under New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law, see:

Those who believe their rights to family leave or breastfeeding measures have been violated can file a complaint with DCR within 180 days of the act by visiting or by calling 973-648-2700.

The DCR is the state agency responsible for preventing and eliminating bias-based discrimination and harassment in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation (including places open to the public such as schools , businesses, hospitals, etc.) by enforcing the New Jersey Anti-Discrimination Act, the New Jersey Family Leave Act and the Fair Chance in Housing Act.

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