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California laws protect pregnant workers

No woman should have to choose between motherhood and her career. Gone are the days when women raised a family and only men worked outside of the home. In the name of workplace equality, California laws protect pregnant workers and provides certain accommodations to expectant mothers.

Pregnancy protections

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing mandates protection for pregnant employees. In California, the law protects “employees against discrimination or harassment because of an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth or any related medical condition [because of pregnancy].”

Employers have an obligation to accommodate for pregnant employees, including:

  • Reasonably accommodating for pregnant employees by altering work duties
  • Transferring pregnant employees to less strenuous positions if available
  • Providing reasonable break times and access to a private area to express breast milk

As a pregnant employee, it is your duty to notify your employer in a timely matter that you will need to receive accommodations for your pregnancy. Your employer may also ask you to provide a written note from your doctor, except in cases of a medical emergency. Failure to provide proper notice could lead to your employer justifiably delaying reasonable accommodations and time off.

Pregnancy disability leave

California law provides for pregnancy disability leave (PDL) for employees who are expecting. With PDL, you can take up to four months off for pregnancy-related illnesses or complications and return to the same or a comparable position when the disability ceases. During PDL, you retain your current health insurance benefits at the same level and under the same conditions as before PDL.

PDL is not for an automatically set amount of time, but for however long your health-care provider deems your pregnancy-related disability lasts. Once you notify your employer that you intend to take PDL, upon request your employer must guarantee in writing that you can return to your previous position. You do not have to take your PDL all at once. Rather, you can take it on an as-needed basis.

Depending on your employer’s policies, you may or may not get pay during your PDL. Your employer may require you to use your sick days for PDL or you may choose to do so. Reasons for taking PDL may include the following:

  • Time for medical appointments
  • Doctor-ordered bed rest
  • Morning sickness
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Preeclampsia
  • Recovery from childbirth or loss of pregnancy
  • Postpartum depression

Seeking help

If your employer denies you PDL or other accommodations for your pregnancy, they may be acting unlawfully. Workplace protections during pregnancy are your right. If you feel your rights have been violated, you may wish to speak to an attorney who can help you get the fair compensation you deserve.

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