Welcoming a new child into your family is usually an exciting time. But it can also be stressful — especially if you’re worried about how it will impact your job. 

Women often need to take time off during pregnancy or after giving birth to protect their health. And all parents and children can benefit from time to bond, especially in the early months.

Of course, if you’re afraid of losing your job, you’re much less likely to take off the time you need. 

California has some of the most extensive leave laws in the country. As an employee in the state, you may be eligible for:

  • Pregnancy Disability Leave
  • Bonding Leave, and/or 
  • “Reasonable Accommodation” Leave

What is pregnancy disability leave?

Pregnancy disability leave is time off from work that a woman takes when she’s disabled by pregnancy or childbirth.

California’s Pregnancy Disability Law and FMLA laws provide time off for pregnancy disability leave for eligible employees. 

In California, you have a “pregnancy disability” or “serious health condition” if, in your doctor’s opinion, you’re unable to perform any essential job functions because of your pregnancy. 

There are many types of pregnancy disabilities. Common examples include, but are not limited to:

  • severe morning sickness,
  • need for bed rest,
  • gestational diabetes,
  • pregnancy-induced hypertension,
  • preeclampsia,
  • postpartum depression,
  • recovery from childbirth, and
  • recovery from end of pregnancy.

What is bonding leave?

Bonding leave is time an employee takes off from work to bond with a new child. You may have also heard it called “parental leave.”

Eligible employees can take bonding leave within the first year of a child’s arrival — whether by birth, adoption, or foster placement.

When are you entitled to “reasonable accommodations”?

Under the FEHA, covered employers must provide “reasonable accommodations” for disabled employees — including those disabled by pregnancy.

A “reasonable accommodation” is a change to your position or workplace to help you perform your essential job functions.

The accommodations that you’re entitled to depend on your disability and your job. Examples include:

  • changing work practices or policies,
  • changing work duties,
  • changing work schedules, 
  • providing more breaks,
  • providing a stool or chair, and
  • providing facilities for private lactation.

Notably, “reasonable accommodation” may also mean time off from work. “Reasonable accommodation” leave may be possible even after you’ve used up other types of leave. 

Can you lose your job if you take pregnancy disability leave or bonding leave in California?

The right to take leave doesn’t mean much if you don’t have a job when you return. 

In California, when you return from leave your employer must give you the same or a comparable position (unless certain exceptions apply).

What is pregnancy discrimination?

Under the FEHA, it’s illegal for covered employers to treat employees less favorably (or “discriminate”) on the basis of:

  • pregnancy,
  • childbirth,
  • loss of pregnancy, or
  • related physical or mental conditions.

Pregnancy discrimination is illegal at all stages of employment, including when making decisions about:

Examples of unlawful pregnancy discrimination include:

  • refusing to hire a woman because she’s pregnant or may become pregnant;
  • firing or demoting a woman because of her pregnancy-related medical conditions;
  • refusing to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy disabilities;
  • denying maternity leave if she’s legally entitled to leave; and
  • discriminating against a woman because she needs to breastfeed or pump.

What can you do if your employer discriminated against you because of your pregnancy?

Discrimination is clearly illegal under California law. But some employers still violate the rights of their employees. 

If this happens to you, you may be able to get financial compensation or reinstatement to your job. 

Employer Retaliation 

Many employees worry about how their employers will react if they file a complaint.

But remember that it’s illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for filing a complaint. If your employer takes any adverse employment action against you, you’ll have another claim against it. So don’t be afraid to defend your rights!

Hiring an Employment Lawyer

If you think you’ve been a victim of employment discrimination, it’s a good idea to hire an experienced employment attorney. Most cases are not straightforward, and the law is complex. 

An experienced employment attorney can help:

  • Advise you on all your options
  • Be your advocate so that you aren’t dealing with your employer or former employer directly
  • Navigate complicated laws
  • Maximize the compensation you may receive

What to do if you have been wrongfully terminated or discriminated against because of your pregnancy

At Whitehead Employment Law, we’re committed to fighting for the rights of California employees just like you. If you believe your rights have been violated, call us at (949) 936-4001 or fill out a confidential case evaluation form today. Our consultations are always free.  

Whitehead Employment Law is a premier firm with a wealth of legal talent dedicated to labor and employment law. We have settled and tried cases winning millions of dollars in awards for clients whose employers have violated California labor laws.

We take our cases on contingency, which means we don’t get paid unless we win your case. We understand that filing a lawsuit and hiring an attorney is expensive, so we front all the costs and our portion comes out of the settlement or verdict we win for you, so you don’t pay anything out of pocket. 

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