Pregnancy Discrimination in California: Know Your Rights
Pregnancy is a time of joy and anticipation, but if you are working throughout your pregnancy it can also be a time of uncertainty. In the state of California, if you are pregnant and have chosen to continue working, it can help you to understand the laws in place designed to protect you. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing outlines your rights as a pregnant employee as well as the obligations that fall on you and your employer.
Employer Obligations for Pregnant Women in California
California law requires that employers have an obligation to reasonably meet the needs of employees who are pregnant. If you are pregnant, you can expect your employer to adhere to the following:
- Employers must reasonably accommodate the medical needs of pregnant employees. These accommodations can include modifying a work area to ensure that the pregnant employee is comfortable and able to do their job. This includes providing employers with a stool or a chair to help ease discomfort and allowing for frequent breaks if the pregnant employee requires them.
- An employer also has an obligation to temporarily modify worker duties in order to alleviate stressors or hardships a pregnant employee might face. For example, a pregnant woman may be reassigned clerical duties if her previous duties included lifting heavy objects or fulfilling laborious duties that could compromise the health of herself or her baby.
- Employers are also obligated to transfer pregnant employees to less strenuous or less hazardous positions, provided these positions are available, if medically necessary.
- Employers are obligated to provide pregnant employees with Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) of up to four months. According to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, these are the working days an employer would normally work in 1/3 of a year or 17 ⅓ weeks.
- When the employee returns from their PDL, the employer must return them to the same job or a comparable job they were at before they were deemed disabled by the pregnancy. However, if an employee takes PDL, this does not protect them from a non-leave related employment action such as a layoff.
- Employers must also provide a reasonable amount of break time If an employee needs to pump milk. Employees are entitled to a separate room or other location close to their work area.
Pregnancy Disability Leave in California
An employee’s PDL is determined by their healthcare provider and is not an automatic period of time. A healthcare provider can determine necessary leave or other accommodations that must be made for the pregnant worker.
When an employee obtains PDL they must inform their employer. An employee has the right to obtain a guaranteed written declaration by the employer that when they return to work after their PDL, they will return to the same position that they left. An employer may require that the employee must submit a medical certification from their healthcare provider that explains the reason for the PDL.
PDL offers pregnant employees a range of benefits including but not limited to the following:
- Frequent breaks during the workday
- Time for medical appointments including prenatal and postnatal care
- Bed rest as ordered by a healthcare provider
- Time off of work because of severe morning sickness such as hyperemesis gravidarum
- Leave to deal with gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, pre-eclampsia, and other pregnancy-related illnesses
- Recovery from childbirth
- Time off due to the loss of a pregnancy and/or postpartum depression
Because PDL is not an automatic period of time, it can be taken at any time on an as-needed basis. Your healthcare provider will play a large role in determining when PDL is required, but it is often taken as a reduced work schedule or as intermittent leave. This time off will be counted against your four-month entitlement to leave under PDL.
PDL may be paid or unpaid and it depends on your employer’s policy for other medical leave. Under the California Employment Development Department, pregnant employees may be eligible for state disability insurance or Paid Family Leave while they take their PDL.
Employees may also use vacation or other paid time off during PDL at their discretion. Some employers may require that you use your sick leave during your PDL.
As an employee, you have certain obligations that you must adhere to as well during your pregnancy.
If possible, you must give your employer reasonable notice in order to receive reasonable accommodations. Typically, reasonable notice is about 30 days. Failing to give your employer reasonable notice of your pregnancy needs could give your employer justification for delaying those reasonable accommodations.
For qualifying employees, you may also be entitled to additional rights under the California Family Rights Act of 1993.
Know Your Rights
Having a knowledgeable representative on your side can help you navigate your rights if you were discriminated against for working while pregnant. Reach out to one of our qualified attorneys today to discuss your case and get the guidance you deserve. Call Ochoa & Calderón at 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 toll-free throughout Southern California.