Can I Be Laid Off While Pregnant?
California law prohibits an employer from terminating a pregnant worker due to her pregnancy. However, most employers understand California pregnancy discrimination laws and will rarely state that they are laying off a pregnant employee because of her pregnancy or its complications. Employers can legally terminate a pregnant employee if they have a legitimate business reason for doing so, such as they are laying off a large part of their workforce. But sometimes the employer’s claimed reason for termination, including lay-off, turns out to be false. Thus, the assistance of an experienced employment attorney is invaluable to prove that the actual reason for termination was discriminatory.
Pregnant Employees Are Protected Under the Law
California law prohibits pregnancy discrimination under the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL). The PDLL requires qualifying employers to provide employees up to four months of job-protected leave for pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. In addition, under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), qualified pregnant mothers can take an additional 12 weeks of time for infant bonding – for a total of nearly seven months of leave.
Examples of California Pregnancy Discrimination
Experts agree that pregnancy discrimination is widely underreported. Part of the reason for this is that employees may not know when they have fallen victim to an employer’s discriminatory actions. Pregnancy discrimination does not always look “bad,” and employers may couch their decisions in terms that seem to put an employee’s health or safety first. However, pregnant employees have the right to make their own choices regarding their health, and when an employer intervenes, it may be discrimination.
Below are a few common examples of pregnancy discrimination:
- Laying off or firing a pregnant employee for any reasons related to her pregnancy (but be aware that the employer will often claim to have another reason in order to cover-up the discrimination);
- Refusing to provide an employee with required pregnancy leave;
- Failure to make reasonable accommodation for a pregnant employee, such as extended medical leave for post-partum depression or any other pregnancy complication;
- Not hiring or promoting an employee because she is pregnant or hopes to get pregnant;
- Not hiring or promoting an employee based on a belief (reasonable or not) that the employee may become pregnant;
- Transferring a pregnant employee based on “concerns” about the employee’s safety;
- Denying the right to pump breast milk at work or tolerating harassment for doing so; and
- Retaliating against an employee for reporting pregnancy discrimination or harassment.
This is not a complete list; any time an employer makes an employment decision based on an employee’s pregnancy; it may be discrimination.
Employer’s Rarely Admit to Discrimination
When faced with pregnancy discrimination claims, most Bay Area employers will provide innocent-sounding explanations for their decisions. However, courts will not necessarily take an employer’s proffered justification without question.
In most San Francisco pregnancy discrimination claims, an employee will use circumstantial evidence to prove an employer’s illegal intent. It is rare for there to be direct evidence of discrimination, such as an email between management clearly stating an employee was fired because she was pregnant. However, a skilled employment attorney can create a convincing case of an employer’s true motivations by looking at the overall picture. For example, if an employee with an outstanding history was suddenly laid off a week after telling her manager she was pregnant, it would beg the question as to why that was the case. Or, if an employee were laid off during pregnancy, but her job was shortly reposted, it would seem the termination was motivated by the pregnancy.
Have You Experienced Workplace Discrimination Because You Were Pregnant?
If you were recently laid off or fired, and believe it was because you were pregnant, contact McCormack Law Firm for immediate assistance. For more than 20 years, attorney Bryan McCormack has been handling all types of Bay Area pregnancy discrimination claims, including those in which an employer claims to have legally laid off a pregnant employee. To learn more about how Attorney McCormack can help you pursue a claim against your employer and schedule a free consultation to speak with an attorney about your situation, call (415) 925-5161.