Pregnancy Disability Leave in California
Over recent years, more expecting mothers are working later into their pregnancy. Fifty-six percent of pregnant women work full-time during their pregnancy, and 82 percent of employees pregnant with their first child work until they are within a month of their due date. In response to the increase in the number of pregnant employees, state lawmakers have passed laws providing significant protections to pregnant women. One essential part of these laws is a woman’s right to take unpaid leave after having a child. Although pregnancy leave is unpaid, employers routinely interfere with a woman’s right to take it.
California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law
State and federal laws provide employment protections for pregnant employees. To begin, the following types of pregnancy leave benefits may be available:
- FMLA leave: Under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), pregnant employees may qualify for up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.
- CFRA leave: The California Family Rights Act the state equivalent of the FMLA. Thus, employees of qualifying employers can receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.
- Pregnancy Disability Leave: California workers can take up to four months of unpaid leave if they cannot work due to any medical condition related to their pregnancy.
California employment law provides pregnant employees with the ability to take up to four months of unpaid leave for medical reasons and 12 weeks of unpaid leave for bonding purposes.
Unlike many other types of leave, Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) is available to almost all employers with five or more employees. An employee who is not eligible for FMLA benefits or CFRA benefits may still be eligible for PDL benefits.
The practical effect of this is that an employee can take at least 12 weeks of leave under FMLA, with a potential of an additional four weeks of PDL if medically necessary. Once an employee’s disability ends, they can then begin their CFRA leave.
What if a Pregnant Employee Can Still Work but Needs a Reasonable Accommodation?
Many women can and want to work well into their pregnancy. However, at some point in a pregnancy, an employee may need to request certain accommodations to make it easier to perform their job. Under both state and federal law, employers must offer reasonable accommodations in most situations. Examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Allowing an employee to sit while working;
- Transferring an employee to a less hazardous position (at the employee’s request);
- Assistance with heavy lifting;
- Permitting more frequent breaks; and
- Providing private space for pumping breast milk.
The extent to which an employee wants to work during their pregnancy is their own choice. Thus, an employer should not tell an employee that they need to take their leave “for their own safety” or transfer an employee against their will for the same reason. This conduct constitutes pregnancy discrimination.
Have You Been Denied the Right to Take Pregnancy Leave?
If your employer recently denied you the right to take unpaid pregnancy leave or terminated your employment after you requested leave, reach out to a dedicated San Francisco employment lawyer for assistance. At the McCormack Law Firm, attorney Bryan McCormack diligently represents employees’ interests facing all varieties of employment discrimination. With his help, you can obtain the leave you deserve or hold an employer accountable for any action they took against you for exercising your rights. To learn more and schedule a free consultation to speak with an attorney about your situation, call (415) 925-5161.