California Law PROTECTS EMPLOYEES FROM PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION AT WORK
The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is the California law that protects employees as well as job applicants from discrimination at work due to pregnancy. Pregnancy discrimination is a common form of employment discrimination that occurs when an expectant mother is fired, not hired, or otherwise discriminated against or subjected to harassment due to their pregnancy.
What Is Protected?
Medical needs related to your pregnancy should be reasonably accommodated. For example, your work duties may need to be temporarily modified. The employer may need to provide you with a stool or chair, or allow more frequent breaks. If one is available, you may need to be transferred to a less hazardous or less strenuous work area.
Your employer may need to provide you with pregnancy disability leave (PDL) of up to four months and return you to your same job when you are no longer disabled by your pregnancy or, in certain instances, to a comparable job. PDL is not for any automatic period of time, but for the period of time that you are disabled by pregnancy. Your doctor will determine how much time you will need. PDL may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Additional or more frequent breaks
- Time for prenatal or postnatal medical appointments
- Doctor-ordered bed rest
- Severe morning sickness
- Gestational diabetes
- Pregnancy induced hypertension
- Recovery from childbirth or loss or end of pregnancy
- Postpartum depression
PDL does not need to be taken all at once but can be taken on an as-needed basis as required by your health care provider. This includes intermittent leave or a reduced work schedule, all of which counts against your four month entitlement to leave. Your leave will be paid or unpaid depending on your employer’s policy for other medical leaves. You may also be eligible for state disability insurance or Paid Family Leave (PFL), administered by the California Employment Development Department (EDD).
If you have a pregnancy related disability that lasts more than four months and requires some form of accommodation, including medical leave, your employer cannot fail to accommodate your request unless it poses an undue hardship on the employer.
You may have additional rights under the California Family Rights Act, which is similar to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Your leave may be up to 12 workweeks in a 12-month period for the birth related medical condition or baby bonding if you and your employer meet the following conditions:
- You have more than 12 months of service with your employer.
- You have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period before the date you want to begin your leave.
- And effective from January 1, 2021, your employer currently has 5 or more employees.
Common Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination
Discrimination occurs in many ways. It is illegal for an employer not to hire a person because she is pregnant. If you were denied a promotion or demoted because of your pregnancy, that is also discrimination. If you need reasonable accommodations or job modifications due to your pregnancy, your employer cannot refuse a request for reasonable accommodation that would allow you to perform your job unless it is an undue hardship. Discrimination can also occur when you are harassed or paid less because of your pregnancy. In some cases, firing or forcing an employee to quit due to their pregnancy is discrimination.
FEHA also protect employees from discrimination if they are associated with a family member who is pregnant. For example, an employee may need time off to care for a pregnant spouse or other family member. The employee should not be fired because of their association with a pregnant spouse or family member.
Damages Available in Pregnancy Discrimination Cases
When a disabled employee wins, there are many kinds of potential damages that can be recovered including:
- Damages for emotional and physical injuries
- Damages for lost wages and benefits
- Special damages
- Punitive damages
- File purging
- Attorney’s fees
Do I Have a Pregnancy Discrimination Case?
If you feel you have been discriminated against due to your pregnancy or your spouse’s pregnancy, you should consult with me. My 39 years of experience as a trial lawyer has provided me with the ability to help many employees who have suffered from pregnancy discrimination. Please contact me for a free consultation to discuss your case and I will promptly respond.