What Rights Do Pregnant Women Have at Work in California?

For expectant mothers, the months leading up to childbirth can be stressful and uncertain. In addition to worrying about prenatal care and labor, you are probably anxious about all the changes that come with having a baby. On top of all of that, you most likely are concerned about your job and may have questions about your workplace rights during this special time.

Fortunately, California has laws in place to protect pregnant mothers from employment discrimination and ensure that they are provided with reasonable accommodations to enable them to continue working during their pregnancy.

Understanding what regulations and laws protect pregnant women in California is essential for every expecting mother.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the rights that pregnant women have in the workplace in California, including the prohibition of discrimination and termination, and the provision of reasonable accommodations. With this knowledge, pregnant women can advocate for their rights and have a positive and fulfilling work experience during their pregnancy.

What Is Pregnancy Discrimination?

Pregnancy discrimination is any form of discrimination or adverse action against an employee or job applicant due to their pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

This can include but is not limited to firing, demotion, denial of promotion, lack of reasonable accommodations, or refusal to hire pregnant women.

Pregnancy discrimination can also include discrimination or harassment based on a woman’s perceived pregnancy, such as offensive comments about a woman’s body or her ability to perform her job.

It’s illegal for an employer to retaliate against a pregnant employee for asserting her rights under the law or opposing discriminatory practices. Pregnancy discrimination is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).

Pregnancy Discrimination During Hiring

Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), employers are prohibited from discriminating against job applicants or employees based on their pregnancy.

This means employers must provide equal opportunities for pregnant women in hiring, promoting, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Types of Questions That Are Not Allowed in an Interview

During the hiring process, employers are prohibited from asking certain types of questions that may be related to pregnancy or perceived pregnancy. These can include:

  • Plans for starting a family.
  • Pregnancy status.
  • Childcare arrangements or responsibilities.
  • Past pregnancies or related medical conditions.
  • Ability to work during pregnancy or after giving birth.

Being Denied the Job

If an employer refuses to hire a woman due to her pregnancy or perceived pregnancy, the applicant may have grounds for a pregnancy discrimination case.

For example, if an employer turns down a job applicant because she is pregnant or because the employer believes she may become pregnant in the future and take maternity leave, this is pregnancy discrimination.

Having the Job Offer Revoked

In California, an employer can revoke a job offer at any time before the employee starts working in an at-will employment situation.

However, if the employer has made a verbal or written promise of employment and the employee has relied on that promise to their detriment, the employer may be held liable for breach of contract through promissory estoppel.

Additionally, revoking a job offer based on pregnancy is illegal under state and federal laws.

If employees believe their job offer was revoked due to pregnancy discrimination, they can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

If you have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination, you should contact an experienced employment law attorney to discuss your legal options. Furthermore, you may be entitled to:

  • Compensatory damages
  • Lost wages and benefits
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Punitive damages

Don’t let pregnancy discrimination hold you back – schedule a consultation with Hershey Law today!

It can be difficult for a pregnant woman or anybody to navigate the complexity of employment law on their own. 

At Hershey Law, we are dedicated to helping women navigate the complexities of pregnancy discrimination cases and pregnancy discrimination claims in order to protect their rights and make sure they receive the justice they deserve. 

Speak with our Los Angeles pregnancy discrimination lawyers today to learn more about your rights and legal options as a pregnant worker.

» Read More: What Gender Discrimination Does to Women at Work

What Rights Do Pregnant Employees Have?

Pregnant employees in California have several rights to ensure that they can continue working throughout their pregnancy without facing discrimination or undue hardship.

These rights include protection against discrimination in hiring, promotion, and other employment decisions, as well as the right to reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions. Additionally, pregnant employees may be entitled to paid time off for pregnancy, childbirth, and maternity leave.

Laws Regarding Pregnancy Discrimination

In California, many laws give employees the right to take time off for family or health reasons. These laws may overlap; in those cases, the employee is entitled to the most protective rights.

  • California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Act (PDL)

The California Code of Regulations allows pregnant employees to take up to 4 months of protected leave. This leave is based on the employee’s normal work schedule, either one-third of the year – 17 1/3 weeks – or the employee’s monthly average hours worked over the 4 months before the leave if the schedule alternates.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for PDL:

  • The employee must be disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.

A pregnancy is considered a disability if a woman cannot work or perform her job’s essential functions without risking herself, her pregnancy, or others, according to her healthcare provider. This includes time off for pregnancy leave – prenatal care, severe morning sickness, doctor-ordered bed rest, childbirth, and recovery.

PDL applies to private employers with at least 5 employees and all public employers, but does not apply to religious organizations that are not for profit. There are no eligibility requirements for PDL and it is available to women from the time of hire.

PDL provides a recovery period of six to eight weeks after delivery for uncomplicated pregnancies. After PDL, employees are also entitled to an additional 12 weeks of job-protected leave for bonding with their child through CFRA.

✍️ Note: 

Time off for pregnancy disability leave is not paid by the employer. An employee can take Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) both before and after childbirth if they are unable to work due to pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition, as stated in the California Code of Regulations, Title 2, Section 11042.

  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for certain family and medical reasons.

The FMLA lets you take time off for a new child and pregnancy-related disability. This paid time off can be used simultaneously as leave for PDL and CFRA.

Eligibility Requirements

The FMLA applies to

  • Employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.
  • An employee that has worked for the employer for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours in the past 12 months.

Your employer is required to continue providing healthcare benefits during your leave. Once the leave is over, you are entitled to return to your original job or a comparable position.

  • California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is a state law that gives parents 12 weeks of time off to bond with a new child. It does not cover pregnancy disability. At the end of pregnancy, disability leave, or 4 months, whichever comes first, a parent can ask for 12 more weeks off to bond.

Eligibility Requirements

The CFRA applies to

  • Employers with 5 or more employees, including all public employers, regardless of their location.
  • An employee that has worked for the employer for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours in the past 12 months.

Like FMLA, CFRA leave guarantees job protection for the pregnant employee’s position.

Employers who are not bound by PDL, FMLA, or CFRA leave regulations must treat pregnant employees the same way they would treat employees with other types of temporary disabilities, in accordance with the company’s policy or established practices of leave and employment conditions.

These laws work together to ensure that pregnant employees can take time off for their pregnancy and childbirth without fear of losing their job or facing pregnancy-related discrimination in the workplace.

Pregnancy Accommodations

In addition to laws protecting pregnant employees from discrimination, California also requires employers to provide specific accommodations to pregnant employees that enable them to continue working throughout their pregnancy.

Some of these accommodations include:

Pregnancy discrimination laws include reasonable accommodations for new mothers
Pregnancy discrimination laws include reasonable accommodations for new mothers
  • Lactating Laws

In California, employers must provide lactating employees with a private location, other than a bathroom, and a reasonable time to express milk. The private space provided must be clean, safe, and shielded from view, with a surface to place a breast pump and personal items, a place to sit, and access to electricity. There must also be a sink with running water and a refrigerator or cooler for storing breast milk nearby.

Breastfeeding discrimination is prohibited under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) as well.

  • Morning Sickness and Other Medical Conditions

In California, employers are required by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) to accommodate pregnant employees with ongoing issues such as morning sickness, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and other temporary pregnancy-related medical conditions.

This may include transferring the employee to a less strenuous position, avoiding exposure to dangerous chemicals, providing a chair or stool, allowing time off or schedule modifications for doctor’s appointments, and making other reasonable accommodations. These protections do not have an exception for undue hardship on the employer.

  • Breaks During Work Hours

Per the DFEH, pregnant workers have the legal right to take extra breaks during work hours. This includes breaks to drink water, use the restroom, and stand, sit, or stretch. Employers must provide “reasonable break time” for breastfeeding employees until the child’s first birthday. Hourly employees are also entitled to break time.

Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, employers cannot take adverse action against pregnant workers for requesting additional breaks.

✍️ Note:

It’s important to request accommodations for pregnancy in writing so your employer cannot deny that you asked for them. This way, you can protect yourself from retaliation or discrimination.

Paid Time Off

Employers are not obligated to provide maternity leave for pregnant employees, but they are required to maintain their health insurance coverage and keep their job open for their return. However, there are options available for employees to receive compensation during the time off.

  • Accrued Paid Time Off – Employees who have accrued paid time off (vacation days, sick days) can use it to cover the time off due to pregnancy or sickness.
  • State Disability Insurance (SDI) – Eligible employees can receive SDI benefits for pregnancy or birth-related short-term disability if they have paid $300 or more into the program for 5–18 months before the claim’s start date. The benefit amount ranges from $242.86 to $1,619.15 per week in 2023.
  • Paid Family Leave Act (PFL) – Employees can receive up to 8 weeks of wage replacement to take time off to bond with a new child. Under PFL, you could get 60 to 70 percent of your weekly wages earned 5 to 18 months before your claim start date. Use the PFL Calculator to estimate your benefit amount.
  • Temporary Disability Pay – Employers must pay you if they would pay similarly-situated employees who are out on disability leave for non-pregnancy conditions.

It’s worth noting that some companies do offer paid maternity leave as a part of their internal policies. To fully understand your options and rights, you should seek advice from the pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Hershey Law.

How to Prove Pregnancy Discrimination?

To establish pregnancy discrimination, you must show that your employer treated you differently due to your pregnancy or failed to accommodate you as a pregnant woman. This can be done by providing both direct and circumstantial evidence. Combining both types of evidence can increase the chances of proving and winning a pregnancy discrimination case.

  • Direct Evidence

Direct evidence explicitly shows discrimination, such as statements from the employer or supervisor that demonstrate a discriminatory motive. For example, if an employer bluntly tells an employee that she is being let go because of her pregnancy, that would be direct evidence of discrimination.

  • Circumstantial Evidence

Circumstantial evidence, on the other hand, is evidence that infers discrimination through indirect means. This can include showing that the employer treated similarly situated employees differently or that the employer had a history of discrimination. For example, if an employer consistently demotes or denies promotions to pregnant employees, but promotes other employees with the same skills and experience, that would be circumstantial evidence of discrimination.

Proving discrimination through circumstantial evidence can be challenging, but a seasoned pregnancy discrimination attorney can assist in identifying and presenting such evidence. They will work hard to build a strong case for your pregnancy discrimination claim.

Reach Out to Hershey Law for Pregnancy Discrimination Legal Assistance

Whether you are facing discrimination in the workplace due to your pregnancy or you feel that your employer is not accommodating your needs as a pregnant woman, it is important to seek legal assistance.

At Hershey Law, we believe that all employees should receive fair treatment and equal opportunities regardless of pregnancy status. We are dedicated to fighting for the rights of all employees facing workplace discrimination in California.

Pregnancy and motherhood should not hold women back from pursuing their career goals. If you’re facing discrimination at work, contact a lawyer for pregnancy discrimination at (310) 929-2190 or reach out to us online. We can assess your case and determine the best course of legal action to make sure you are treated fairly.