There are few events in life as exciting and rewarding as welcoming a new baby into your family. Of course, a new addition to the family also means new expenses, and a greater-than-ever need for stability. The last thing a new mother needs is an unexpected disruption in her income shortly after giving birth.
However, some employers don’t play fair with new moms. Maybe they’re concerned about increased insurance costs as your family grows, or perhaps they’re worried about absenteeism or split focus with a new baby in your life. That kind of thinking can leave new parents in a bind, when hours are cut, job assignments changed, or even employment terminated after childbirth.
Fortunately, both U.S. and California law protect pregnant women and new mothers from discrimination in the workplace.
Pregnancy Accommodation in California
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) protects women from discrimination due to pregnancy in any area of employment, including:
• Hiring and termination, including layoff
• Job duties and shift assignments
• Eligibility for training and promotion
• Benefits, such as health insurance coverage
The PDA also requires an employer to treat a woman temporarily disabled due to pregnancy or childbirth like any other temporarily disabled employee. Some examples may include:
• Availability of short-term disability leave
• Offering light duty or alternative work assignments
The law doesn’t provide specific requirements, but requires the employer to provide the same options and benefits in the case of pregnancy or childbirth-related disabilities as it does to employee’s facing other types of short-term disability.
Other federal statutes provide additional protection to pregnant women and new mothers under certain circumstances. For example, many medical complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth will qualify as disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requiring a covered employer to provide reasonable accommodations. And, the Family Medical Leave Act entitles a qualified new parent to take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave without prejudice to his or her employment.
The protections offered under each of these statutes are different, though some overlap. Further, whether or not an employer is subject to the law and the specific qualifications for an employee to be covered differ from statute to statute. If you need leave during pregnancy or after childbirth, or if you have been terminated, demoted, passed over for a promotion or otherwise penalized based on pregnancy or new motherhood, a California employment lawyer can be the best source of information about your rights and options.
California Law Protects Expectant Mothers in the Workplace
California law goes even further toward protecting pregnant women and new mothers than federal law in some respects. For example, federal law requires only that an employer offer an employee with a pregnancy-related disability the same leave and other benefits that would be offered to an employee with another type of short-term disability. However, California law specifically provides for pregnancy disability leave.
What is California Pregnancy Disability Leave?
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) requires employers with five or more employees to offer up to four months of pregnancy disability leave (PDL) to employees who need it. The need for PDL is determined by the pregnant woman’s healthcare provider, who also makes a recommendation as to the duration of leave required. This leave is in addition to any other leave mandated by state or local law, such as the California Medical Leave Act.
In addition, an employer that offers more than four months of leave to employees with other short-term medical disabilities must provide a like amount of leave to employees suffering from a pregnancy-related disability. The employer may require an employee to use sick leave as part of pregnancy disability leave, but cannot require the employee to use accrued vacation time.
After pregnancy disability leave, an employer must reinstate the employee to her previous job or one that is substantially similar in terms of job duties, skill level, pay and benefits. Similarly, if the employee has been transferred to a different job due to pregnancy-related restrictions or light duty requirements, the employee must be reinstated to her previous position or a substantially similar position when the disability has been removed.
Labor Laws for Pregnant Women in Los Angeles
Unlike many federal laws mandating employee leave, the requirement that California employers grant an employee up to four months of pregnancy disability leave is not dependent on the employee’s history with the employer. There is no minimum length of employment required to qualify for PDL, and the employee may be full-time or part-time, with no minimum number of hours worked per week, quarter, or year.
The California Family Rights Act for Pregnant Mothers
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is similar to the federal Family Medical Leave Act. Under the CFRA, a new mother is entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave to bond with and care for the baby. This leave is separate from and in addition to any pregnancy disability leave the mother may have taken.
However, CFRA application is more limited than the law allowing for pregnancy disability leave. The CFRA applies only to employers with at least 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius. In addition, an employee must have worked for the employer at least 1,250 hours in the preceding 12 months.
Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyers for Los Angeles Women
Stress over employment security, financial stability, loss of career opportunities, or unfavorable work assignments should not cast a dark cloud over a wonderful time in your life. Consider talking to an experienced California employment lawyer if:
• You are pregnant and your employer is refusing to accommodate a legitimate medical need for leave or accommodations
• You are pregnant and have been demoted, reassigned, passed over for promotion, terminated, or otherwise disadvantaged because of your pregnancy
• You have recently given birth and your employer has denied you leave, or terminated you while you were on leave or when you returned to work
• You were placed on restricted duty or otherwise reassigned to accommodate medical needs during pregnancy, and your employer refuses to return you to your previous position after your child is born
Generally speaking, most California employers cannot discriminate against you, deny you medical leave, refuse to accommodate disability-related needs, terminate you for being pregnant, terminate you for having given birth, or otherwise force you to choose between a healthy pregnancy and birth and your job.
Even if your situation doesn’t fall neatly into one of the above-listed scenarios, take steps to educate yourself about your rights and protect yourself and your unborn or newborn child. Seeking advice as soon as you begin to encounter difficulties can help to preserve your options and provide you the relief you need in a more timely manner.