In an effort to attract more women to law enforcement careers, New Jersey authorities have issued new guidelines to protect pregnant or breastfeeding officers from discrimination in the workplace.
The Attorney General’s Office announced the guidelines on August 25, which were created to “promote uniformity in the treatment of pregnant officers, remove certain obstacles to the professional success of women officers, and ultimately help improve the diversity of New Jersey’s officer ranks.”
The guidelines also seek to protect pregnant officers from penalties or from receiving a negative impact to their performance evaluation due to their pregnancy.
Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin stated that the policy is “designed to help make policing a more compelling career path for women” after it was found that women make up only 10% of law enforcement officers in the state.
The guidelines also come after several discrimination lawsuits filed by pregnant female officers who alleged unequal treatment and discrimination by their employers.
For example, in 2016, an Ocean Township police officer who claimed she was refused accommodations provided to injured male officers was awarded a payout of $51,000. Last year, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the Ocean Township Police Department’s policy for pregnant officers violated the law.
“This is a profession that is welcoming women to join it,” Platkin told news site NJ.com. “We want them to feel that this is a profession they can join and stay through their career.”
Governor Phil Murphy, who signed a 2020 bill requiring agencies to be reflective of their community’s demographics, lauded the new guidelines.
“Those who are pregnant, no matter their occupation, deserve to have reasonable accommodations in the workplace during pregnancy and after having recently given birth,” Murphy said in a statement. “These guidelines will help our law enforcement departments attract and retain female officers who may not have considered it possible to safely and comfortably climb the ranks of law enforcement while experiencing the joys of becoming or being a new parent.”
The guidelines, which are also supported by the state’s police unions and the ACLU, allow for a variety of modifications for duty regarding training, uniforms, firearms, patrol duties and other aspects of the job.
They also allow for breastfeeding officers to take lactation breaks. “Agencies shall make available a suitable private room or other private location for lactation, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the work area,” the guidelines read.
“Pregnancy and breastfeeding can create unique professional challenges for workers across industries, and those challenges are exacerbated by the demands of a career in law enforcement,” the guidelines further state. “As a result, providing guidance to law enforcement agencies regarding appropriate protocols concerning pregnant officers will ease professional burdens, help recruit diverse officers, and remove obstacles to promotion and professional success.”