Historically, women have been discriminated against and suffered harassment in the workplace because of pregnancy. As a result of these injustices, federal and state laws have been enacted to protect pregnant employee rights. In California, pregnant employees are protected under the state Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). If you are a pregnant employee, your rights in the workplace include the following:

1. Freedom from Discrimination Because of Pregnancy

The federal PDA was enacted to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include pregnancy in the prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sex. Under California state law, prohibition against sex discrimination specifically includes pregnancy and childbirth and related medical conditions, and breastfeeding. Your employer may not discriminate against you for being pregnant in any aspect of employment, including, hiring, firing, promotions, pay, job assignments, training, fringe benefits, or any condition of employment. If you believe this right has been violated, speak with an experienced California pregnancy discrimination attorney as soon as possible.

2. Reasonable Accommodation for Your Pregnancy

Under the advice of her health care provider, an employee may request, and her employer is required to provide, reasonable accommodation for pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions if the employer has 5 or more employees. Reasonable accommodation may include:

  • Temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position
  • Assistance provided for lifting heavy objects]
  • Modification of job duties
  • Longer or more frequent rest breaks
    Permission to sit while working or to carry a water bottle
    Lactation accommodations when the employee returns to work after childbirth

3. Pregnancy Disability Leave

In California, employers must provide up to four months disability leave for women workers who are disabled because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (more than four months leave if they provide more for other temporary disabilities). An employee who works for a covered employer is eligible for pregnancy disability leave, no matter how long she has worked for that employer, and whether or not she works full-time.

California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (“PDLL”) is part of the Fair Employment and Housing Act. It requires employers with five or more employees to provide employees with up to four months of leave for disability due to an employee’s “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” Govt. Code § 12945(a)(1). It is unlawful for an employer to discharge, discriminate, or retaliate against any person for exercising the right to take a pregnancy disability leave. Govt. Code § 12945.

California law considers “four months” of pregnancy leave to be 17 and 1/3 weeks from the time an employee begins her pregnancy leave. See 2 California Code of Regulations (“Cal.C.Regs.”) § 11035(l).

4. California Family Rights Act Leave

In addition to pregnancy disability leave, eligible pregnant employees in California have the right to take California Family Rights Act (CFRA) leave. CFRA leave is provided to give new parents time to bond with a new baby or an adopted child, or for a serious health condition of the
employee or a spouse, child, or parent of the employee.

A significant difference between FMLA and CFRA, however, is that CFRA does not run concurrently with PDLL. 2 Cal.C.Regs. §§ 11046(a), 11093(a), (c), (d). California law makes CFRA leave and PDLL leave two separate and distinct rights afforded to employees. See id. at § 11046(a) (“The right to take a pregnancy disability leave under Government Code section 12945 . . . is separate and distinct from the right to take leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).”

Because PDLL and CFRA are separate and distinct rights, state regulations make clear that CFRA leave may be taken for an additional 12 weeks after a PDLL leave:

At the end of the employee’s period(s) of pregnancy disability, or at the end of four months of pregnancy disability leave, whichever occurs first, a CFRA-eligible employee may request to take CFRA leave of up to 12 workweeks for reason of the birth of her child, if the child has been born by this date.

2 Cal.C.Regs. §§ 11046(c).

The natural consequence of these laws is that female workers may have up to 29 1/2 weeks of protected leave. See id. at § 11046(d).

5. Notice from Your Employer of Pregnant Employee Rights

Employers in California are required to post, in a conspicuous location where employees congregate, a notice defining pregnant employee rights under the law. The notice must include information about pregnant employee rights to transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position and to request disability leave for pregnancy and childbirth. Subject employers must also provide notice of pregnant employees’ rights to CFRA leave.

Our experienced Orange County pregnancy discrimination lawyers at Sessions & Kimball LLP are committed to fighting for employee rights for pregnant women. Our attorneys are regularly named as California Super Lawyers® and our firm is routinely listed among Best Law Firms by U.S. News & World Report.

Contact our office to arrange for a free consultation. You can have confidence that your case is in good hands with our firm.