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California Pregnancy Discrimination Law: Expecting Employees Can't Be Fired

Updated: Dec 27, 2022

Employers in California Can't Fire You For Getting Pregnant Or Filing A Medical Leave

Having a child can be one of the most life-changing experiences a woman can have. It can, unfortunately, hurt a woman's career. In those situations, it's important to understand what constitutes unconstitutional Pregnancy Discrimination. With the help of the best Employment Attorney in Los Angeles, you might be able to receive the damages you are entitled to.

This is known as Pregnancy Discrimination, when a pregnant employee or work candidate is treated unfairly because of their pregnancy. Employers with five or more workers in California are prohibited from discriminating against pregnant women. This is considered a form of sex discrimination under the law.

Discrimination against pregnant women can take many forms. In the workplace, common examples of unlawful Pregnancy Discrimination include:

  • Refusing to employ a woman who is pregnant or may become pregnant in the future

  • Getting rid of or demoting a woman because of pregnancy-related medical issues

  • Refusing to make fair accommodations for a woman's pregnancy-related conditions is a form of discrimination.

  • It cannot be denied if a woman is legally entitled to time off for childbirth or medical problems related to childbirth.

  • Discrimination against a woman who has to breastfeed, inject, or treat medical problems associated with breastfeeding.

These and other terms are discussed in greater depth further down. Since state law is usually more favorable to workers than federal law.

The Legal Foundation Against Pregnancy Discrimination in California

Both state and federal laws shield workers in California from Pregnancy Discrimination. The nature of the alleged harm will normally determine the applicable law.

Pregnancy Discrimination in California - Preventing Legislation

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which applies to employers of fifteen or more workers, forbids discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. It also states that women impacted by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions must be considered equally for all employment-related purposes, including benefit reception.

On a state level, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (known as "FEHA") offers substantial protection for pregnant women, prohibiting discrimination and abuse on the grounds of pregnancy, similar to federal law. But, unlike federal law, FEHA extends to employers with five or more employees, affecting more California businesses than federal law.

In addition to shielding pregnant workers from discrimination and abuse, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) mandates protected employers to make adequate allowances for employees who are affected by their pregnancy, which can include a length of leave that exceeds the standard statutory requirements.

Law Covers Pregnancy-related Leave in California

Five major laws in California give pregnant workers and new mothers the ability to take time off: The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California's Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (also known as "PDL"), the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), and the New Parent Leave Act are all examples. Each law has its eligibility provisions, and each grant leave for varying periods of time and under varying conditions.

The main goal of these laws is to encourage mothers (and often fathers) to take unpaid leave to care for their new baby at home without fear of losing their work. This ensures that if an employee takes leave under one of those rules, their employer is normally required to reinstate them to the same (or a similar) position.

If an employer fires, declines to recruit or otherwise penalizes an employee because they need a period of pregnancy-related leave (or may need it in the future), the employer's acts are often viewed as illegal Pregnancy Discrimination and a breach of applicable leave laws.

Discrimination Against Pregnant Employees in California

As previously stated, Pregnancy Discrimination occurs when an employee or work candidate is treated unfairly because they are pregnant or may become pregnant in the future. However, not all forms of pregnancy discrimination are illegal.

The employee or work candidate may have the duty of proving those facts to show that an employer participated in unfair discrimination. These facts are referred to as elements of the lawsuit. The following elements are present in cases of Pregnancy Discrimination:

  • The employer was a business that was subject to pregnancy discrimination laws.

  • The employer took a negative workplace action against the employee, such as refusing to recruit, promote, or fire him.

  • The employer's negative employment behavior was motivated by the employee's or work applicant's pregnancy, pregnancy-related impairment, or desire to become pregnant.

  • Because of the employer's negative employment behavior, the employee suffered some sort of injury.

Which Employers Could Be Held Liable?

The first step in determining if an employer has engaged in illegal Pregnancy Discrimination is to see whether California's anti-discrimination laws extend to them.

An employer will normally be held liable under California law if they fall into one of the following categories:

  • An employer is anyone or a company that hires five or more people regularly.

  • An individual or company acting as an agent of a covered employer is referred to as the employer.

  • A state or local government agency is the employer.

Each of these types has significant exceptions. For these reasons, some religious nonprofit organizations and companies, for example, are not considered "employers." As a result, many of California's anti-discrimination laws do not apply to religious employers.

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It's also worth remembering that, unless they're the actual boss, bosses, managers, and coworkers are usually not directly liable for acts of discrimination or retaliation. However, employers may also be held legally accountable for the discriminatory conduct of supervisors and managers.

Finally, provisions against pregnancy-related abuse are narrower than those against discrimination in California. Supervisors, managers, and coworkers may be held legally responsible for acts including pregnancy abuse under California's prohibition on pregnancy-based harassment, which extends to employers of every size—even those of less than five employees.

Which Employees Are Protected Under California Labor Laws?

California law states that discriminating against "any person" because of their pregnancy is illegal, but the acts prohibited by the law are limited to the workplace. As a result, only certain categories of employees will benefit from the state's legal protections.

There are four types of jobs in this category:

  • Employees currently hired.

    • An employee is someone who works for the employer under his or her command and control and whom the employer has chosen to hire.

  • Applicants for positions.

    • An applicant is a person who submits a written application to a company. If the employer does not have a written application form, an individual is considered an applicant if they express a desire to be considered for employment by the employer.

  • Temporary Workers (or "Temps").

    • Jobs who are recruited by an employer and assigned to work for a company are known as temp workers. In certain cases, the temp will be able to hold both the temp agency and the company they work for, Pregnancy Discrimination.

  • Interns that are not charged.

    • In 2015, California law was amended to handle unpaid interns in the same way as regular workers regarding pregnancy discrimination.

There are several exceptions to these categories, of course. To begin with, California's anti-discrimination laws do not apply to applicants who are underqualified. If an applicant is less eligible for a job than the individual actually chosen, the employer has the right to refuse them.

Additionally, California's anti-discrimination laws do not cover people who work for their parents, spouses, or children. Finally, while California's anti-discrimination laws do not cover independent contractors and volunteers, they are covered by the state's regulations prohibiting pregnancy-based abuse. Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your California Attorney Search.

Discrimination in the Workplace Against Pregnant Employees

Discrimination based on an employee's pregnancy status is illegal in California, according to state law. Discrimination involves treating people differently when they are pregnant or have recently given birth in terms of Their pay, the terms or privileges of their jobs, their working conditions, and their job assignments are all factors to consider.

Pregnancy Discrimination is prohibited at almost all levels of jobs, including:

  • During the hiring process (or before taking applications if recruiting materials are discriminatory)

  • When it comes to promotions

  • When making raise decisions, keep this in mind

  • When deciding whether or not to lay off or fire staff, consider the following factors

  • When considering training options, deciding whether or not to allow time off, and assessing employee benefits

Additionally, if the employee becomes disabled due to her pregnancy or a disability related to childbirth, the employer is also forced to have suitable accommodation. This may mean that the employer must substantially improve the employee's working conditions.

Harassment Against Pregnant Employees in California

Employers in California are prohibited from bullying employees for being pregnant, delivering a child, or seeking pregnancy-related leave under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (known as "FEHA").

  • Employers, bosses, and coworkers are all subject to this law. ⁠ If harassment is so pervasive or serious that it produces a hostile or abusive work atmosphere or when it results in an adverse employment decision, it is illegal.

  • Harassment of pregnant women is handled in the same way as other types of sexual harassment. Harassment can be offensive or degrading, physical, oral, or written conduct as long as it is motivated by the woman's sex or pregnancy. On the other hand, the statute does not ban simple teasing or minor pregnancy-related abuse.

  • Negative jokes, name-calling, derogatory remarks about the woman's weight, breastmilk, or appearance, photographs, or unwanted touching are all common examples of abuse. It can be perpetrated not only by men but also by women in the workplace.

  • Unlike traditional discrimination claims, the statute does not mandate that workers be injured or disabled in any way due to offensive conduct. The harassment itself is enough to make an accusation of unlawful harassment complete.

Breastfeeding Breaks For California Employees

A lactation break is a time during the workday when nursing mothers will release their breast milk (i.e., a break to pump). Employers in California are required by state and federal law to include lactation breaks. If a lactation break significantly affects the employer's activities, the right to one does not apply. However, since this exemption is difficult to meet, employers should exercise caution before invoking it.

Duration of Lactation Breaks

The lactation break must be long enough to allow breast milk expression. This ambiguous norm generally implies that there are no strict time constraints.

According to the US Department of Labor, the act of expressing breast milk takes around 15 to 20 minutes on average, but a reasonable break time would normally be longer because the employee will most likely need to prepare before starting.

Several factors will determine the length of the break. There are some of them: The number and duration of breaks needed by a nursing mother; The time it takes to walk to and from the lactation room, as well as any time spent waiting to use it; The time it takes the employee to go to another place to get her pump and other supplies; The time it takes for an employee to unpack and set up her own pump, or the time it takes for a pump to be provided for her; The efficiency of the milk-expressing pump (employees using different pumps can take longer or shorter); The amount of time it takes for an employee to wash her hands before pumping and clean the pump attachments after she's finished expressing milk; and The amount of time it takes an employee to store her milk in a refrigerator or a personal cooler.

When Do You Take a Lactation Break?

If an employee is entitled to rest or meal breaks, the lactation break should be scheduled at the same time as the rest or meal breaks. If this isn't practical, or if the employee needs more time off to pump milk, the employer must also accommodate lactation breaks at other times.

Making room

Employers must make fair efforts to include a private place for workers to express breast milk. The location must be adjacent to the employee's work area and cannot be a toilet stall.

For these reasons, a private area is hidden from view and free of interference from peers and the general public. If the employee's regular work area is private and appropriate, the employer can designate it as a private area for the employee to express their breast milk.

Lactation Breaks are Paid

The employer is not allowed to pay the employee during their lactation breaks if they are taken at times other than their daily rest or meal breaks.

If the lactation break falls on the same day as a paid break for the employee, the break must be compensated.

Requesting a Lactation Break

If new mothers need to provide breast milk at work, they should inform their bosses. Putting the request in writing, using polite yet succinct words, is typically a good idea. Employers cannot retaliate against workers who seek a lactation break under the law. This ensures that an employee who takes a lactation break cannot be suspended, dismissed, or treated unfairly.

During or after childbirth, many female workers experience physical or mental impairment. This puts them at risk of another form of workplace harm: discrimination based on disability. Discrimination against people with disabilities is when they are treated unfairly because of their physical or mental limitations.

Employers with five or more workers in California are prohibited from discriminating based on an employee's: Physical, mental, medical, or genetic conditions are all possibilities.

The employee must be able to perform the job's basic functions to be eligible for insurance. If an employee needs a reasonable accommodation to perform their job, the employer is required by law to offer one because doing so would be extremely difficult and costly.

Is Pregnancy a Disability Under California Labor Law?

Pregnancy is not considered a disorder in and of itself. However, if pregnancy-related conditions prevent an employee from doing their job, the employer must accept and accommodate them on a case-by-case basis.

The main issue is whether the employee is disabled as a result of her pregnancy. If that's the case, she'll be protected from discrimination in the same way that other disabled workers are. This may imply that her employer would make a suitable allowance for her pregnancy-related disability.

Fair accommodation is a change to an employee's working environment that allows them to fulfill the job's basic functions. Depending on the employee's work and the impairment's extent, the modification type can vary. Whether a suggested accommodation is fair is a factual issue that can elicit many discussions.

For female workers, reasonable allowances are necessary since an employer might be allowed to provide extended family leave (beyond what is otherwise legally required). A suitable accommodation may also be required to change the employee's working conditions and enable him or her to work comfortably.

  • A woman is disabled by her pregnancy if, in her doctor's view, she cannot perform one or more of her job's important functions due to her pregnancy. A woman's pregnancy can also render her disabled if she has one or more of the following conditions:

  • Unbearable morning sickness, If it's for prenatal or postnatal treatment, The need for bed rest, Diabetes during pregnancy, Hypertension caused by pregnancy, preeclampsia, postpartum depression, and preeclampsia are all conditions that can occur during pregnancy. Pregnancy loss or termination, and recovery from pregnancy loss or termination

Both of these cases have one thing in common: the pregnancy-related impairment has limited a significant life operation.

When Reasonable Arrangements Are Necessary?

If an employee is disabled due to her pregnancy, as mentioned above, protected employers must make fair accommodations. As soon as the employer becomes aware of the disability, this responsibility emerges. However, if the accommodation will cause the employer undue inconvenience, the employer is exempt from this obligation.

Courts are generally lenient when it comes to determining what accommodations are appropriate. Employers must also take into account "any and all" fair accommodations they are aware of. In determining the type of accommodation to provide, the employer must also consider the employee's preferences. Employers, on the other hand, have the freedom to choose between fair and effective accommodations.

On the other hand, employers are not obligated to accept an accommodation if it will preclude the employee from fulfilling the job's basic functions. Employers are often not obligated to accommodate disabilities that endanger the employee's or their colleagues' well-being.

Having existing facilities easily open to pregnant workers is a common example of reasonable accommodations. They can also contain the following:

  • Reorganization of the workforce

  • Reassignment to a job that is no longer available

  • Changes in the deadlines for completing assignments

  • Changes in the way tasks are carried out or allowing the employee to take time off for care and rehabilitation

If an employer provides fair accommodation to an employee, the employee has the right to refuse it. The employer is prohibited from retaliating against an employee who refuses to accept the accommodation.

Do Pregnant Employees Need Legal Representation in California?

To file a lawsuit against their employer, employees are not expected to hire the best California Pregnancy Lawyer. However, having one is frequently a good idea. The law can be difficult to understand, and only a few cases are straightforward. Even if the facts are in your favor, an accomplished Los Angeles Employment Law Attorney will assist you by:

Obtaining all legally relevant details, applying the law to the evidence and related facts in a persuasive manner, avoiding strategic traps that many non-lawyers are unfamiliar with, and maximizing the financial damages received by the employee.

Of course, an Employment Lawyer's ability to achieve these goals is not guaranteed. On the other hand, employees who manage their legal issues without legal counsel run the risk of losing or seriously harming their case due to legal blunders that a lawyer may have prevented.

  • If the employer challenges the employee's assertion, which occurs often, legal arguments may need to be raised, as well as facts. This could happen in court or through a government entity, and it could happen according to complex legal procedures. It's smart to hire a California Employment Attorney for Pregnancy Discrimination who has experience in such matters.

  • In certain cases, lawyers can work without the employee paying something upfront. Instead, they'll take a percentage of the money the employee receives after the event. It's quite likely that, after the lawsuit, the employer would be obliged to pay the workers' legal fees. Since it is easier for them to cover it, certain regulations put the responsibility for such expenses on the employer.

While it is not required by law for an employee to have a Labor Law Attorney, having one will make managing the claims process much simpler.

Claims are initiated by a government agency.

Employees prosecuting a Pregnancy Discrimination claim must first file a written complaint with an administrative body. Employees pursuing a pregnancy discrimination claim cannot go straight to court with a lawsuit. This procedure is known as "exhausting" the employee's administrative remedies.

  • The case should be filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) if the employee only makes charges under state law.

    • The lawsuit may be filed with either the DFEH or the US Department of Labor if the employee is making charges under federal law. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that works to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. Courts consider a case lodged with the DFEH to have already been filed with the EEOC.

As a result, filing a complaint with any entity fulfills the employee's responsibilities in this regard. If the employee files a complaint with the EEOC, they will learn more about the procedure here.

If the EEOC or the DFEH does not settle the claim after the employee files a complaint with the relevant administrative department, the employee may be given a right-to-sue notice, which allows them to prosecute their case in court.

The Due Date for Filing (Statute of Limitations)

When it comes to seeking redress for Pregnancy Discrimination, employees are up against tight deadlines. If the employee is making charges under state law, he or she must file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (the "DFEH") within one year of the alleged discriminatory act.

After going through the administrative process and receiving a right-to-sue letter from the DFEH, the employee has one year to file a civil complaint against the employer. The one-year clock begins ticking on the day the right-to-sue letter is released.

Employees who want federal help must file a complaint with either the DFEH or the US Department of Labor. The employee must file a right-to-sue letter within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory act with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). If any agency sends a right-to-sue letter, the employee has 90 days to file a complaint in federal court.

Of course, there are exceptions to these time limits. If you are uncertain whether your argument is time-barred, you can contact the best Los Angeles Employment Lawyers immediately.

Retaliation against pregnant employees in California is Illegal.

Employees are also concerned about the implications of filing a Pregnancy Discrimination lawsuit against their employer, even though most employers would obey the rule. However, it is important to note that employers cannot fire or discipline pregnant workers merely because they disagree with the company's pregnancy-based discrimination policies.

Similarly, an employee who has been subjected to Pregnancy Discrimination has the right to file a lawsuit, testify, or participate in any case related to their employer's pregnancy discrimination charge. They do not face retaliation from their employer due to their actions.

What is retaliation in the workplace under California labor laws?

When your employer takes a negative job action against you (such as disciplinary action or termination) as a result of you engaging in protected conduct, this is known as workplace retaliation (like complaining about harassment or discrimination, requesting FMLA leave, or requesting reasonable accommodation for a disability). Complaining about not obtaining overtime pay, refusing to engage in criminal activity, and reporting illegal activity to a state or government entity are all covered practices.

Employers are prohibited by California law from retaliating against an employee who complaints about discrimination or reports illegal workplace behavior.

You have legal rights.

Employees must be completely informed of their rights under California and federal labor laws. The following are the most critical of these laws:

  • Whistleblower legislation, which protects workers who report their employer's unlawful or fraudulent behavior to authorities. Employers are forbidden from firing or handling workers unfairly because they pursue a whistleblower allegation.

  • Discrimination and Harassment Employers are prohibited from harassing or discriminating against workers based on age, disability, ethnicity, gender, pregnancy, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or, more specifically, having lodged a lawsuit against their employer, according to the Fair Employment and Housing Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and similar laws.

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  • Right to free speech under the First Amendment. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution grants government workers the right to free expression, including the right to disclose unlawful behavior and political campaign behavior. As a result, political workers are shielded from punishment at work for expressing their rights.

  • Federal statutes and we cover rights. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the body in charge of enforcing these laws and protecting workers. EEOC laws prohibit employers from retaliating against workers or job applicants who engage in protected activities.

  • Whistleblowers who expose government wrongdoing are also protected by federal law. The False Claims Act is what it's called. Employees are protected under the False Claims Act from unfair employer termination in retaliation for disclosing fraud.

Unfortunately, retaliation occurs daily, and the majority of cases go unreported.

Examples of Retaliation Against Pregnant Employees in California

Since experiencing the following forms of workplace Retaliation, an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles will assist their clients in recovering the benefits they are entitled to:

  • Negative performance evaluations

  • Chances for a pay rise have been denied

  • Taking a lot of disciplinary action

  • Without a good reason, you've been demoted

  • For increasingly demanding jobs, there has been no pay rise

  • Refusal to attend internal and customer meetings

  • Without a good purpose, pay reductions are made

  • Refusal to have fair educational benefits

  • Surveillance that is new or unwarranted

  • Working conditions that are unacceptable

Do I have a retaliation case?

Employees file workplace harassment lawsuits when they believe their employer has unlawfully retaliated against them in response to a protected action. Employees cannot be fired by their employers for engaging in any kind of protected activity, such as:

  • Harassment or prejudice must be reported.

  • Making a claim for discrimination

  • Making a disability accommodation request

  • Making a workers' compensation claim

  • Complaining about the safety of the workplace, overtime, or breaks

  • Refusing to participate in unethical sales practices

  • In the workplace, reporting criminal activity or fraud (whistleblowing)

  • Being called as a witness in a case involving your employer

Employers are prohibited from terminating or punishing employees who engage in protected behavior. You have the right to make a workplace harassment lawsuit if the boss has done so.

Find A Top Rated Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer in Los Angeles is a California Bar Association Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to a Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer in California who is the best fit to handle your case.

An Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles can guide you through the complicated process of filing a Workplace Pregnancy Discrimination Claim. You may contact us through our 24/7 Live Chat or complete our case details submission form for a FREE initial consultation.

Related Articles About Pregnancy Discrimination in The Workplace:


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