TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced guidelines designed to help make policing a more compelling career path for women by safeguarding the workplace rights of pregnant and breastfeeding officers at law enforcement agencies statewide. Providing guidance to agencies regarding the reasonable accommodation of pregnant officers under state and federal law is 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.
The guidance comes after Governor Phil Murphy in 2020 signed a law (the “Act”) designed to ensure that every law enforcement agency in New Jersey is “comprised of law enforcement officers who reflect the diversity of the population of the community the agency is charged with protecting.” Under that law, agencies submitted demographics of current officers to the Attorney General in 2021, which are publicly available through the Office of Justice Data. That data collection showed an underrepresentation of women law enforcement officers. In 2021, women officers comprised ten percent of officers statewide. By rough comparison, over half of all New Jersey’s residents are women.
“Those who are pregnant, no matter their occupation, deserve to have reasonable accommodations in the workplace during pregnancy and after having recently given birth,” said Governor Murphy. “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. I thank the Attorney General for advancing this critical initiative and making our law enforcement agencies more welcoming workplaces for all.”
“I, along with law enforcement executives around the state, am committed to removing barriers to pursuing a career in law enforcement,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “Pregnancy can create unique professional challenges for workers across industries, and those challenges are only exacerbated by the demands of wearing the badge. Although significant work and time will be needed to increase the representation of women in law enforcement, these Guidelines on providing reasonable accommodations to pregnant officers are a significant initial step in that effort.”
“The guidance in this directive provides our female law enforcement officers with options to effectively perform their duties without compromising their health and well-being while pregnant,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Despite the many challenges a career in law enforcement may present, a pregnancy should never be a barrier to pursuing a successful career as a police officer. We remain committed to supporting the Attorney General’s policies that ensure equal opportunities for all our law enforcement officers.”
Megan Flanagan, President of the New Jersey Women in Law Enforcement, said her organization “had the unique opportunity to work with Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin and his staff on this necessary guideline. It will help in the recruitment of qualified females for the profession of law enforcement as well as to help retain them throughout their careers. Another benefit is that it grants agencies the ability to create and implement a standard practice for those female officers wishing to balance being both a mother and a successful law enforcement officer.”
A detective with the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, Flanagan added that the guidelines “will reduce the stress female officers experience when they become pregnant and create an inclusive environment where they feel supported. Undoubtedly, this will enhance the professionalism and diversity of New Jersey’s law enforcement community. We want to thank Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin and the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police for allowing us to be an integral part of this collaborative process.”
“These guidelines address the challenges female officers face when pregnant, will contribute to a more equitable workplace and help ensure economic parity for female officers,” said Jeffrey H. Sutherland, President of the County Prosecutors Association of New Jersey. “With these changes more women may consider the rewarding career of law enforcement and help make our law enforcement agencies more reflective of society.”
Pat Colligan, President of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, which worked with the Attorney General’s Office on the guidelines, said “increasing representation in law enforcement while also providing for additional workplace rights for our members will always be among our top priorities and these new guidelines will help create an environment that achieves both goals. These guidelines will also help with our recruitment, which is critically important given the recent decrease in the ranks of law enforcement in New Jersey and around the country.”
“We believe New Jersey’s law enforcement personnel should reflect the demographics of the state to truly serve the people equitably,” said Stafford Township Police Chief Thomas Dellane, President of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police. “There remains a disproportionate number of women serving in our local, county and state police departments, despite ongoing recruitment efforts. By working together with our female officers, we can minimize the stress that pregnant officers may have faced in years past. We believe this will result in more success in recruiting women to our profession.”
“The Attorney General has taken an important stride in issuing these guidelines. They provide clarity regarding New Jersey’s strong protections for pregnant workers and agencies’ obligations to accommodate pregnant officers,” said Jeanne LoCicero, Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. “Pregnant people should never have to choose between their job and a healthy pregnancy. Because New Jersey has more extreme gender disparities in police departments than most other states – and there are communities that have no women officers in their departments – it’s vital to address barriers to participation by people of all genders so that law enforcement agencies can reflect the diversity of our state.”
“Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is a harsh reality for women who are often removed from their position, placed on unpaid leave, or fired. The New Jersey Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was passed to recognize that women comprise more than half the workforce and that approximately 85 percent of them will become pregnant at some point. It demands that employers treat pregnancy as a normal condition of employment,” said Anjali Mehrotra, President of the National Organization for Women of New Jersey. “No one should be faced with choosing between continuing to work under conditions that put their health at risk or leaving their job. We applaud the Office of the Attorney General for their guidance that strengthens protections for pregnant women in law enforcement who may need temporary accommodations to keep working safely.”
Frank Serratore, President of the State Troopers Superior Officers Association, said his organization “welcomed the opportunity to work with the Attorney General’s Office to improve working conditions for all troopers and all law enforcement across the state. The State Troopers Superior Officers Association supports promoting the adoption of policies and practices that afford maximum protection to law enforcement and the citizens we serve.”
“The State Troopers Non-Commissioned Officers Association supports any policy that maintains a fair workplace for and promotes uniformity in the treatment of our members, which this policy does by clarifying existing State and Federal law,” said Dan Oliveira, President of the NCO.
“These guidelines are a strong step forward in balance and fairness for female law enforcement officers,” said Cuqui Rivera, Criminal Justice Reform Chair of the Latino Action Network. “I am hopeful that all of law enforcement in New Jersey will actually implement these protocols as quickly and as completely as possible.”
“The New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police together with the National Fraternal Order of Police support and promote diversity in all aspects of policing,” according to a statement from NJFOP President Robert Fox and Executive Vice President Robert Gries. “The NJFOP commends the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General for recognizing the need to promote policing in the State of New Jersey and for adopting these most important guidelines in regards to accommodations for pregnant Law Enforcement Officers.”
The procedures laid out in this policy 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. These Guidelines are intended to promote the Act’s goal of improving diversity among our law enforcement officers, including gender diversity, and are issued pursuant to the Act’s mandate. N.J.S.A. 52:17B-4.12.
The Office of the Attorney General is grateful to the many partners and stakeholders who contributed to the crafting of this policy, and would especially like to thank the New Jersey Women in Law Enforcement for their leadership in this effort.
The Guidelines are posted at: https://www.nj.gov/oag/dcj/agguide/AG-Guidelines-protocols-for-pregnant-officers.pdf