California’s Complex Pregnancy And Maternity Leave Laws Explained
California employees benefit from some of the most comprehensive pregnancy and family leave laws in the country. The rules in California are particularly generous to employees who become pregnant and have children.
There are two California laws that determine how much leave employees may take during pregnancy or after the birth or adoption of a child. They are the Fair Employment and Housing Act (referred to as “the FEHA”) and the California Family Rights Act (referred to as “the CFRA”).
The FEHA gives employees who are disabled by pregnancy, childbirth or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth the right to take leave from work. Eligible employees can take up to 4 months of leave under the FEHA. In addition to the 4 months of pregnancy disability leave available under the FEHA, California employees are eligible to take an additional 12 weeks of leave under the CFRA once the child is born, sometimes called “baby bonding leave.” In total, an employee could be entitled to 7 months of leave associated with pregnancy and childbirth.
Taking Leave During Pregnancy (Pregnancy Disability Leave)
Leave taken during the course of pregnancy is governed by the FEHA. This type of leave is called “Pregnancy Disability Leave.” California employees are legally entitled to up to 4 months of Pregnancy Disability Leave when the following two requirements are met:
- The employer has 5 or more employees.
- The employee is disabled by pregnancy, childbirth or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.
A woman is considered disabled by pregnancy and is eligible to take pregnancy disability leave if her health care provider determines that she is unable to perform any of the essential functions of her job without undue risk to her pregnancy, herself or others. In other words, an employee is entitled to leave if her doctor or other health care provider provides documentation stating that she is unable to work due to a medical condition connected to pregnancy.
Pregnancy related medical conditions that qualify as a disability include morning sickness, need for bed rest, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-related hypertension, preeclampsia and post-partum depression. Time necessary to receive prenatal care and postnatal care also qualify as does disability caused by childbirth or the end or loss of the pregnancy. This list is not exhaustive. Other medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth also qualify.
Women who plan to take pregnancy disability leave should give their employer reasonable advance, notice if possible.
The Bottom Line: A woman who is pregnant can take up to 4 months of leave if her health care provider provides documentation stating that she is unable to perform basic functions of her job because of a medical condition related to her pregnancy.
Taking Leave After a Child is Born (Baby Bonding Leave)
In addition to the 4 months leave a pregnant woman may take for pregnancy disability leave, California employees are also entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave after a child is born. This is leave provided by the CFRA. Some requirements must be met however:
Employer size: The employee works for an employer that employs at least 50 people within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite.
Employment duration: The employee has worked for the employer at least 1 year.
Hours worked: The employee worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer in the prior 12 months.
If these requirements are met, any employee, whether he or she is the mother or father of the child, is entitled to take up to 12 weeks of leave following a birth. This time can be used for child bonding and there is no requirement that the child or the mother have any medical condition or disability.
The CFRA provides that eligible employees are entitled to 12-weeks of baby bonding leave in addition to any time the child’s mother took for pregnancy disability under the FEHA. The maximum amount of leave employees can take under both laws is 7 months (4 months under the FEHA for pregnancy disability + 12 weeks under the CFRA for baby bonding).
Are Employees Entitled to Pay During Pregnancy or Maternity Leave?
Unfortunately, no. Employees are generally not entitled to pay for leave under the FEHA or CFRA. There are exceptions however. If the employer has a policy that provides for pay for other types of disability leave, the same policy must apply to pregnant women. Although employees are generally not entitled to pay during leave, employers must continue providing medical benefits during that time.
Even though pregnant employees do not always have a right to pay during pregnancy disability leave, most California employees can receive state disability insurance benefits. Because medical conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth are considered disabilities under California law, employees often have a right to disability coverage. For more information, check with the California’s Employment Development Department.
Employees cannot be Fired or Harassed for Becoming Pregnant
California laws prohibit employers from taking any adverse action against or harassing an employee because she is pregnant or might become pregnant. This means that an employer cannot terminate, demote, or take any other “adverse employment action” against an employee because of pregnancy. Doing so is considered sex discrimination and is absolutely illegal.
Protect Your Rights, Contact Our Orange County Office Today
If you believe your rights to pregnancy or maternity leave have been wrongly denied, or you believe you are the victim of pregnancy discrimination, you should consult a knowledgeable an Irvine employment attorney as soon as possible. Give the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams a call today at 949-679-9909 for a free consultation. You can also contact us through the form below and we will respond promptly.