Understanding Pregnancy Discrimination and Maternity Leave in California

Under federal law, women have certain specific protections against discrimination. States may not reduce or eliminate these protections, but states can increase protections and make them stricter. California has done just this. In fact, California has numerous laws that specifically add protections for new parents and women in particular who must take time to be with a new child.

New Parent Leave Act

Effective in 2019, the New Parent Leave Act applies to people regardless of gender who, due to the birth of a new child, must take time off. It lets an employee take off up to 12 consecutive weeks after having a new child, whether by adoption, natural birth or foster care. The law is limited, however, as it only applies to employers who have 20 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. To qualify for leave, the employee must meet the following requirements:

  • One year of employment with the employer

  • At least 1,250 hours of active work within the 12 months preceding leave

While the law does not mandate pay, it does require continuation of group health insurance, and it requires the employer to let the employee return to their original job that they had prior to taking leave.

Pregnancy Disability Leave Law

This unique law provides that if you have a complicated pregnancy, you have up to four months that you can take off work. Naturally, there are limitations. Complications that may qualify include things like:

  • Prenatal care

  • Bedrest (if ordered by your doctor)

  • Childbirth

  • Care after childbirth

  • Serious morning sickness (as documented by a physician)

It is not enough that you are pregnant; you must demonstrate that you are incapable of performing essential job tasks. An employee seeking to rely on this law will need to discuss with their obstetrician to see if they meet the requirements. If qualified, the employee may be entitled to:

  • Up to four months off work (without pay)

  • Position must be held

California Fair Employment and Housing Act

This California-specific law expands federal protections for employees who need to take time off for new children. Under the Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers may not discriminate based on pregnancy; however, at the federal level it only applies to large employers. The California statute applies to all employers with five or more workers. This greatly expands protections.

California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

Much like the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), CFRA allows workers to take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks. At the state level, the law merely is more expansive in who it covers. When combined with Pregnancy Disability Leave, workers can sometimes qualify for up to seven months off collectively.

Discrimination Based on Pregnancy

Ultimately, the laws of this state are designed to protect pregnant women and new parents, regardless of gender. Things an employer may not do include discriminating:

  • In the hiring process

  • For promotion decisions

  • In deciding who gets a raise

  • When deciding who to fire or layoff

  • In assigning training opportunities or favorable job options

  • When deciding to allow leave time

  • Determining benefits eligibility

If you believe an employer has unlawfully violated your rights by discriminating on the basis of pregnancy or new parenthood, call The Law Offices Of Jake D. Finkel today to speak with an experienced California discrimination lawyer near you.