Pregnant, breastfeeding cops protected under new N.J. rules
The new guidelines are “designed to help make policing a more compelling career path for women,” acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin said
By S.P. Sullivan
TRENTON, N.J. — State authorities on Thursday issued sweeping new guidelines for how New Jersey police departments should treat pregnant and breastfeeding officers, signaling an effort to recruit more women into policing.
The new guidelines are “designed to help make policing a more compelling career path for women,” acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin told NJ Advance Media.
Last year, just 10 percent of police officers statewide were women, according to state data, even though they represent half of the population. A bill signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2020 requires state and local law enforcement agencies to “reflect the diversity of the population of the community the agency is charged with protecting.”
“This is a profession that is welcoming women to join it,” Platkin said in an interview. “We want them to feel that this is a profession they can join and stay through their career.”
The attorney general’s office said the new guidelines were “intended 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.”
Megan Flanagan, a detective in the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and the president of the New Jersey Women in Law Enforcement, said the proposal would ‘help in the recruitment of qualified females for the profession of law enforcement as well as to help retain them throughout their careers.”
The new rules present new opportunities for female cops, but raise questions about how they’ll be treated by rank-and-file officers while recovering from pregnancy or breastfeeding a child.
“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.”
There’s a long history in New Jersey of female cops alleging discrimination.
Court records and news clips show women in New Jersey police departments have long faced hurdles. In 2016, an Ocean Township cop who claimed she was refused accommodations provided to injured male officers received a $51,000 payout. In 2020, a Hillside cop filed suit alleging discrimination over her pregnancy. And last year, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the Ocean Township Police Department’s policy for pregnant cops violated the law.
Until recently, pregnant police officers faced a patchwork of policies that could either help or hamper their careers.
The new rules “apply various federal and state laws concerning treatment of pregnant and breastfeeding employees to the law enforcement context, touching upon accommodations relating to uniforms, and firearms, among other things,” according to a statement from the acting attorney general.
The changes have wide support from Murphy, the state’s major police unions, the state ACLU, the association of police chiefs and the National Organization for Women of New Jersey.