California Pregnancy Laws That Affect Your Workplace Rights

California has some of the best pregnancy workplace rights in the country. In addition to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), California employees get benefits from the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the California Paid Family Leave (PFL) program.

As a pregnant employee in California, you may qualify for:

  • Unpaid leave from work while your job is protected for your return
  • Pregnancy disability leave (PDL) if you become unable to work in your condition
  • Partial wage payments for when you’re on leave from work
  • Pregnancy-related accommodations in the workplace

You’re also protected against harassment or discrimination based on your pregnancy.

It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against or stop you from exercising your rights. If your company prevents you from taking family leave, applying for paid leave benefits, or requesting accommodations – or punishes you for doing these things after the fact – you could file an employment lawsuit to get the justice and compensation you deserve.

What is the Law for Pregnancy Leave in California?

As a California employee, you may be covered by the following federal and state laws:

  • The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off from work per year in connection with the birth or adoption of a child. Your leave is legally protected, which means you should expect to return to the same job or a comparable position once your leave is over.
  • The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) gives employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off from work per year to bond with a new baby, foster child, or adopted child.
  • California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) program provides up to 4 months of protected unpaid disability leave for employees who become disabled or unable to work because of pregnancy or childbirth-related conditions.

However, not all California employees or employers are covered by all of the laws above. In order to be covered by either state or federal pregnancy laws, you must be a qualifying employee who works for a qualifying company. Each law has different requirements to qualify.

Who Qualifies for California Paid Family Leave?

  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits apply to employees of elementary and secondary schools, government agencies, or private employers with more than 50 workers located within 75 miles of the office. As an employee, you must have worked for the company for a minimum of 12 months in the last 7 years (either consecutive or not) and at least 1,250 hours over the last 12 months.
  • California Family Rights Act (CFRA) benefits apply to all public employers and any private employers with more than 5 employees. Similar to the FMLA, you must have been employed by the company for at least 12 months with at least 1,250 hours worked.
  • To qualify for California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) program, you must suffer a disability or period of incapacity related to pregnancy, childbirth, the loss or end of a pregnancy, or any other pregnancy-related physical or mental condition. This could cover extreme morning sickness, doctor-ordered bed rest, childbirth and recovering from childbirth, and time off to attend prenatal or postnatal care appointments.

In most cases, if you qualify for both FMLA and PDL, the first 12 weeks would run concurrently, which means they cannot be stacked. However, once you’ve completed your FMLA and PDL leave periods, you can usually transition into a CFRA bonding leave.

If you end up using all leave under FMLA, CFRA, and PDL, the first 12 weeks would count under FMLA. Then you would get an additional 4 weeks to round out the 4 months you get under PDL. After that, you could get 12 more weeks under the CFRA.

Does California Have Paid Maternity Leave?

Yes. Unlike federal law and many other states – which only offer unpaid leave – California gives some employees the right to paid family leave.

  • California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) program provides up to 8 weeks of payments to employees who take time off from work to bond with a new child. You can get 60-70% of your weekly wages based on what you’ve earned in the previous 5-18 months.

To qualify for California’s PFL program and get payment benefits, you must:

  • Have a job or be actively searching for work at the time you submit your claim,
  • Use your time off to bond with a new child or take care of an ill family member, and
  • Miss out on wages or income because of your role in caring for your family.

In some cases, you may be able to use your company-provided paid sick time, paid vacation time, paid time off, or paid extended sick time while you’re on leave.

Your Rights as a Pregnant Employee in California

In addition to unpaid leave, paid leave, and protection from discrimination or harassment, you also have the right to request pregnancy-related accommodations in the workplace.

Accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions may include:

  • Lighter duty tasks, especially if they involve physical or manual labor
  • A temporary reassignment to a less physically demanding or hazardous position, especially if your original job involved exposure to harmful materials
  • Giving you additional and longer breaks to rest, eat, drink water, or use the restroom
  • Adjusting your schedule to help you work around your symptoms (such as morning sickness) or attend important medical appointments
  • Allowing maternity clothes as part of your work uniform or dress code
  • Giving you a chair to sit where you might normally stand for your role
  • Relocating your office or desk to be closer to restroom facilities
  • Permitting you to work remotely
  • Changing office policies so that you can bring food or drink to your workstation
  • Creating a private space that you can use as a lactation room

The most important part about requesting workplace accommodations is that your company must work with you to find a reasonable solution that personally works for you.

Can You Be Denied Maternity Leave in California?

Even if denying your rights is illegal, a bad-acting employer may not care. They may consider themselves above the law or figure that they’ll never get caught.

Your manager or supervisor may illegally deny your family leave or workplace accommodations. Your company may even unlawfully retaliate against you for trying to access your rights – by demoting you, cutting your hours, changing your schedule, or even firing you.

If this happens, you can file a legal claim or lawsuit against your employer for breaking employment laws. A successful claim can get a settlement with damages to cover your losses. That includes any wages you may have lost if your employer retaliated against you. It may also include punitive damages against your employer if their conduct was especially bad.

If you have questions or if you think your employer is denying your rights, Yash Law Group can help. Click here now to contact us for a free consultation of your potential case.

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