Rights to leave for pregnant women
When it comes to taking time off work to give birth and begin raising a newborn, three primary laws impact the rights of women in California. Those are the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the state’s Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL).
California Family Rights Act and Family and Medical Leave Act
Both the CFRA and FMLA mandate that eligible employers provide their workers with medical leave while protecting their jobs. Both acts provide workers with the right to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for themselves or a family member (such as a newborn). Both acts only apply to job providers who employ 50 or more workers for 20 or more workweeks during the current or prior calendar year.
CFRA job-protected leave requires workers to have 12 months of service with the employer, but the employment time does not have to be consecutive. For example, if an employee worked eight months for the employer several years ago, returned, and worked four months prior to requesting leave, the employee qualifies for CFRA leave.
The CFRA requires the employer have at least 50 workers on the payroll within a 75-mile radius of the worksite where leave is requested. This calculation is measured at the time an employee notifies an employer of the need to take leave.
For FMLA leave to apply, the employee must have worked for that employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours during those 12 months prior to seeking leave. The employee also must work at (or receive direction from) a location where at least 50 employees are employed or within 75 miles of that location.
Both CFRA and the FMLA apply to spouses as well. The CFRA extends spousal job protection to registered domestic partners, which the FMLA does not recognize.
Pregnancy Disability Leave Law
In California, our state legislature has provided additional protections for women who are disabled because of pregnancy, childbirth or other related conditions. The Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDL) provides up to four months of leave for workers who are suffering from pregnancy or birth-related disability. The PDL applies to private employers with five or more full- or part-time employees. PDL is unpaid unless the employer pays for other temporary disability leaves.
Although the CFRA and the FMLA run at the same time — meaning a person cannot take both CFRA leave and FMLA leave — the PDL and the CFRA do not. Therefore, a woman with a difficult pregnancy or childbirth is entitled to up to 4 months of pregnancy disability leave and is also afforded the 12 weeks under the CFRA. Nevertheless, if additional leave time is required for a pregnancy or childbirth-related disability, the worker may be entitled to additional leave time as a reasonable accommodation if the employee has a qualifying disability.
Examples of conditions for which the PDL may apply include when a woman is suffering from severe morning sickness, in need of taking time off for prenatal or postnatal care or placed on bed rest, and/or in need of taking time off for postpartum depression, recovery from childbirth, or the loss or end of pregnancy. PDL does not provide leave time for a birth or placement of a child in a home through adoption or foster care.
An employee in California may be entitled to receive short-term disability insurance (SDI) for a period of pregnancy disability. SDI pays a portion of an employee’s wages while the employee is temporarily disabled, including during pregnancy.
Other Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Employees
If you pregnancy disability requires more leave time than what is provided under the PDL, you may have a right to additional leave and/or other reasonable accommodations. Such reasonable accommodations would like fall under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A pregnant employee may have the right to accommodations such as light duty work assignments, a flexible schedule, the ability to work from home, or other accommodations.
If your employer harasses, retaliates or terminates you because of a pregnancy, or perceived pregnancy, you may have a claim for pregnancy discrimination. At Strong Advocates, we understand that pregnancy can be a wonderful, exciting time, but also a time when you want job and life stability. You need an empathetic, tenacious employment attorney to fight for you. For more information on your right to be protected from pregnancy discrimination, please visit https://www.strongadvocates.com/practice-areas/pregnancy-discrimination/