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What Rights Does A Pregnant Employee Have In California?

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

A Guide To Employment Rights, Accommodations, And Maternity Leaves In California

Your pregnancy should never affect your employment. Unfortunately, some pregnant employees think their boss can do whatever they want, including terminating them when they're deemed temporarily unable to work. Fortunately, California has worker protections that extend to pregnant employees, and any violation of them could be grounds for claims of discrimination, Wrongful Termination, and retaliation.

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What Protects Pregnant Employees In California?

Pregnancy has distinct effects on different people. As a result, laws like the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) protect mothers who need maternity leave or pregnancy disability leave.

Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), an eligible employee can take California maternity disability pregnancy leave, which includes:

  1. An employee with a pregnancy disability is entitled to up to four months of disability leave.

  2. An employee can take leave for as long as they are physically unable to work due to pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition, whether it is before or after the birth.

  3. An employee can request a transfer to a less physically demanding or dangerous role during their pregnancy if their doctor recommends it.

  4. Employees must be allowed to return to the same position before their pregnancy leave or transfer when they return from maternity leave or transfer.

However, not all businesses handle pregnant workers in the appropriate manner. These employers try to get away with mistreating pregnant women through their recruiting, firing, and management practices.

Employees on maternity leave or disability leave are protected against discrimination in the workplace under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Women on maternity leave in California are frequently subjected to the following forms of discrimination:

  1. It constitutes discrimination to refuse to hire a pregnant woman as long as they are capable of doing their job obligations.

  2. It is unlawful when an employer refuses to allow a pregnant employee to modify or undertake alternate job duties while allowing other temporarily incapacitated employees to do so.

  3. If a company gives benefits to employees on other types of leave, it is discriminatory to deny benefits to a pregnant employee.

That said, if you ever experienced employment discrimination because of your pregnancy (whether because you informed HR, filed a notice, or went on a leave), you have grounds for a Pregnancy Discrimination Claim In California.

If you think you've been discriminated against, it's best to consult a prescreened California Employment Attorney to know about the legal options you have.

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid job-protected leave over the course of a year.

Employees who are on leave keep the same employer-provided health benefits that they received while working. Employees who are eligible for the leave can use it for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The birth or the adoption of a child or placing of a child in foster care.

  • To provide care for a member of one's personal family (spouse, kid, or parent) who is suffering from a terrible illness or disease.

  • When an employee is deemed unable to work due to a major health problem (SHC).

A significant health condition is defined as a disease, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that causes or necessitates the following:

  • Any period of an employee's incapacity or treatment related to, or after, inpatient care

  • Any time of incapacity that requires more than three consecutive calendar days away from work, school, or other usual daily activities

  • Treatment for an incurable chronic or long-term health condition by or under the supervision of a health care provider.

  • Following a previous accident or injury, you may require restorative dental or plastic surgery.

Temporary disability insurance is provided to those who take time off work to care for a chronically ill child, spouse, parent, or registered domestic partner or to connect with a new kid. The State Disability Insurance (SDI) program is in charge of administering it. It pays qualified workers up to eight weeks of Paid Family Leave if they take time off to care for family members.

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If any details about the CFRA confuse you (or if you're not sure if it applies to you), consult your California Employment Attorney to give you a more comprehensive explanation. They'll also be able to provide you with all the specific information only for your discrimination claim. After all, cases are unique for every employee.

Pregnancy As A Temporary Disability In California

While California's Pregnancy Disability Leave law requires firms with five or more employees to give PDL, it is a suggested conservative best practice for all employers.

Certain requirements must be accomplished in order for pregnant employees in California to be eligible for PDLL protections:

  1. There must be more than five employees working for the company.

  2. The employee who is pregnant must be regarded as qualified. Unlike other statutory protections for pregnant employees, there is no minimum length of employment for PDLL protections. To be eligible for protection, the pregnant employee must work either full-time or part-time.

  3. Pregnancy must be regarded as a disability for the pregnant employee. To be considered disabled, a pregnant employee must be able to show their employer proof from their health care provider that they are unable to work, perform one or more of their essential job functions, or perform job functions without jeopardizing their health or the health of their unborn child due to the condition of their pregnancy.

More importantly, PDLL considers circumstances such as morning sickness and time away from work for prenatal health care to be eligible for protection.

If you feel like any of these rights were violated, contact an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles to help you fight for your workers' rights.

Both full-time and part-time employees in California are eligible for PDL from the beginning of their work. Employees who are incapacitated by pregnancy, delivery, or a related medical condition are eligible for up to four months of leave. This allotted time includes the amount of time that employees may require before and after the baby's birth. The length of absence is determined by the employee's health care provider, not by the employee.

When a company approves a PDL request from an employee, the employer guarantees that the individual will return to the same or a similar role. If an employer notices signs of poor performance or inadequacy in an employee's function, the best course of action is to meet with the employee when the employee returns to address performance objectives and then to monitor and document performance going forward.

Because of the legal ramifications of failing to comply with pregnancy disability legislation, companies who want to change an employee's job status before, during, or after a leave of absence should consult an employment attorney first.

PDL does not have to be completed in one sitting. Employees can take leave on an as-needed basis or work on a modified schedule if their health requires it, as decided by their health care practitioner.

If an employee is temporarily disabled for more than four months due to a pregnancy-related or other disability, such as being placed on bed rest or needing time off at the end of four months, the employee may be able to request an additional leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act and California's Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Employee and employer should study their rights and responsibilities when the employee informs their employer of their pregnancy or related medical condition. The actions involved with reasonable accommodations, notice and time duties from both parties, and return rights are all included in this notice developed by the DFEH. Both parties should evaluate and discuss their practice policies on pregnancy and leave of absence.

Disability Accommodations For Pregnant Employees

Improvements or simple adjustments to a job or workplace that allow an employee or applicant to efficiently perform the essential responsibilities are known as reasonable accommodations. These will help otherwise capable employees to perform their job with more ease.

Accommodations can be granted to employees with permanent and temporary disabilities (including injured and pregnant employees).

However, fair accommodations have important caveats. They should be "reasonable" in the sense that they can be provided for by what the employer is financially capable of. If it causes undue harm or difficulty to an employer, then it does not qualify as reasonable accommodations.

Here are a few examples of reasonable accommodations for disabled employees:

  1. Amenities at the workplace are changed or added. An employee who's in a wheelchair may require a higher workstation or a modified travel path. To eliminate distractions, an employee with PTSD may require dividers or a more secluded workspace. Pregnant employees might need back support on their office chairs.

  2. Tools or equipment. A worker with carpal tunnel disease may require a modified keyboard, phone headset, or speech recognition software. A deaf employee may need to use a text pager. If an employee is easily distracted or hears conversations, headphones may be required.

  3. Changes in schedule. A part-time schedule may benefit an employee who suffers from exhaustion or sleep disorder as a result of a medical condition. Pregnant employees might need some time off when they experience morning sickness or other pregnancy-related symptoms.

  4. Medication or therapy that necessitates time off work. An employee undergoing treatment may be required to miss work on a regular basis in order to attend appointments.

  5. A leave of absence. A disabled employee may need a leave of absence to recover from a disability-related illness or undergo medical treatment or surgeries.

  6. Adjustments of work responsibilities. If a role is not vital to the job, an employee with a lifting restriction may need to delegate it. Pregnant employees can be assigned to less physically demanding work, strictly online work, etc.

  7. Additional trainings. To master the work, a person with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or any disability that stops them from concentrating or learning may need additional or advanced training.

  8. Changing the methods of monitoring and management. An employee with a learning disability may request a modification in communication methods, such as more face-to-face meetings or email reminders. Different supervision approaches, such as constructive and negative criticism, more regular performance reviews, and more thorough instruction or work assignments, may be required for an employee with a mental health issue.

  9. Changes in work policies. An employee with insulin-dependent diabetes may require more breaks or authorization to eat during the day in order to test blood sugar or administer insulin.

  10. Transferring to a new position or location. Employees who are unable to perform to do the essential job functions of their current position may request to be moved to an open position for which they are qualified. If a business or company has several storefronts or office locations, the employer might also transfer pregnant employees to make it easier to travel or get to work every day.

If your employer refuses to provide you with reasonable accommodations, it may have an impact on your overall performance at work. This is especially important for pregnant employees since a little change or adjustment could go a long way.

That said, you should seek legal advice from an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles if accommodations aren't being provided.

Responsibilities Of Pregnant Employees Under PDLL

That said, not telling your boss about your pregnancy might make things complicated along the way. Your boss or HR needs to know about your current status in the first place to be able to provide accommodations, make workplace adjustments, and set things up before your work leave.

The PDLL lays forth a number of requirements that the employee must meet in order to keep their PDLL eligibility.

  • Informing your employer. If the necessity for pregnancy leave or a position transfer due to a pregnancy-related ailment is anticipated, an employee requesting pregnancy leave under California's PDLL must provide their employer 30 days' notice. An employer has ten calendar days to reply to a leave or transfer notice from an employee. Medical situations do not require a 30-day notice period, and employees cannot be denied leave due to a sudden absence.

  • Certification of the Need for a Leave of Absence. Employers may also require an employee to produce certification of the necessity for leave, which may include:

    • The start date of the condition, or the start date of a pregnancy-related disability in the future

    • Time away from work is essential for a certain amount of time.

    • Justification for the employee's inability to complete their work duties

  • It's crucial to note that while employers can request medical evidence from employees' healthcare providers, they can't force people to provide additional medical opinions.

With these in mind, if you've provided your employer with the proper notice and documentation, you should be given benefits and accommodations for your pregnancy status.

If they ignore or fail to do so after giving them notice, contact an Los Angeles Employment Lawyer to help you fight for your rights and file claims to the right agencies.

When An Employer Violates The Rights Of Pregnant Employees

Despite the fact that the PDLL provides considerable legal protections for pregnant employees, it is customary for employers to disregard these comprehensive statutory measures. Employers commonly breach PDLL in the following ways:

  1. Terminating an employee who is on maternity leave

  2. Forcing an employee to use vacation time instead of PDL

  3. Failure to accommodate a pregnant employee who is unable to work

  4. Making it a business requirement to replace an employee's role

  5. Providing similar employment at a lower salary to an employee

  6. Inciting or ignoring harassment of an employee because of their pregnancy

  7. Demoting or handing down pay cuts to an employee who sent their notice to HR

  8. Refusing to promote an otherwise deserving employee because of their pregnancy

  9. Not giving an employee the opportunities to get promoted (when they otherwise could have done it even while pregnant)

If an employee is subjected to any employment actions that violate California's PDLL, such as being fired or being unfairly discriminated against because of their pregnancy, they may be able to sue their company.

Depending on what went down with your employer, you might have a case of Wrongful Termination, Retaliation, or Discrimination.

It is essential that a discriminated employees seek legal advice and receive a consultation from a California Employment Attorney about their rights and remedies. Depending on the facts of the case, the employee may be entitled to monetary damages, job restoration, and other legal remedies.

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After Taking Your Pregnancy Leave

Pregnancy leave is intended to provide time off when an employee's health care practitioner determines that the employee is temporarily disabled due to the employee's pregnancy, childbirth, or recovery, or any connected medical condition. However, the PDL does not cover time spent at home with a new baby when the employee is no longer hindered.

In general, baby bonding leave protections only apply to eligible employees (mothers and fathers) who require time off from work after a child is born, adopted, or put with the parents to foster and work for employers who meet the specific criteria outlined below:

  1. The New Parent Leave Act in California. Employers subject to the NPLA are those with 20 to 49 employees.

    1. Within one year of a birth, adoption, or foster care placement, an eligible employee can take up to 12 workweeks of NPLA.

    2. Employees who qualify must have been working for the company for at least 12 months and 1,250 total hours in that time at a job site with at least 20 employees within a 75-mile radius. This could be true for practice owners who have two locations.

    3. In writing, the employee is guaranteed 12 weeks of job-protected leave, including continuing health care coverage and the right to return to work.

  2. California Family Rights Act, Family, and Medical Leave Act. Employers with 50 or more employees are covered under the federal FMLA and the California Family Rights Act, including family and medical leave.

    1. Within one year following a child's birth, adoption, or foster care placement, an eligible employee can take up to 12 total weeks of unpaid FMLA/CFRA leave.

    2. Employees covered must have worked for the company for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 total hours in that time at a job site with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

    3. Owners of two practices may also be subject to this regulation.

Employers should be aware that if the requirements for covered employers are not met or if the employee does not meet the needs of a covered employer. The leave does not fall under another disability law; the employee will not be able to take that additional protected "bonding leave" as a result of the law.

Employers could then examine any requests for extra time off after pregnancy under their personal leave of absence policies, which they can approve or decline.

An employer refusing to grant you an FMLA Leave violates your rights. Contact your Los Angeles Employment Lawyer to file claims to the right agencies in California.

Benefits And Wage Matters

Employees may have certain entitlements to employment benefits through earned paid sick leave or vacation time, but PDL is generally unpaid.

Employees can also qualify for wage replacement benefits through the State Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave programs, supported by employee payroll deductions. Employees must apply for these benefits through the Department of Employment Development.

Employers must continue to provide group health benefits to employees on family leave on the same terms as if they were still employed. Employers are advised to consider any arrangements for the employee's continued contribution to premium payments in advance.

Getting Back To Work

As long as the employer keeps up the practice or policy of requiring notice for other leaves unrelated to pregnancy, the employer can need the employee to get a "return to work" release from the employee's health care provider as a condition of the employee's return to work. The release should say that the individual can resume their previous job duties and provide a return date.

Employers can consider an employee's request for a schedule adjustment once they return from leave, just as they would for any other employee.

However, employers are not compelled to accommodate these schedule changes if the position or reduced schedule is not available in the business, and it is not a reasonable accommodation request based on a handicap.


Know your policies, keep track of conversations, and get written leave and return agreements. Your employee should provide you with a notice from their health care provider indicating an approximate start date for their leave before it begins.

However, keep in mind that births might be unpredictable. Therefore, employees should be informed that they should notify their employer if their return date changes as soon as possible. The adjustment should be accompanied by a notice from the employee's health care provider.

Unfortunately, many of these regulations' eligibility conditions are not well understood by everyone. The sooner you and your employee understand notices, leave/return rights, and policies, the better. Lack of communication, inadequate documentation, and assumptions can lead to misunderstandings, and you may find yourself wondering when your employee will return to work too late.

Under the protections of California Employment Law, Wrongful Termination, Discrimination, and Retaliation are all illegal. Hiring an Employment Lawyer in Los Angeles will ease the difficulties you are already experiencing in the workplace. is a California Bar Association Certified Lawyer Referral Service that can refer you to someone that best suits your case. Fill up our submission form or contact us through our 24/7 live chat for a free online case consultation.


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