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California Pregnancy Discrimination Laws: Common Questions, Answered

If you are employed in California, there are both state and federal employment laws to protect you from pregnancy discrimination. Even so, it's important to know that this type of workplace discrimination continues to be a problem in California and beyond. In fact, there were over 5000 pregnancy discrimination charges filed with the EEOC in 2013 alone. But how do you know if you're a victim of pregnancy discrimination?

This article will answer common questions about pregnancy discrimination to help you better understand California employment laws as they relate to pregnancy, maternity leave, and more.

Pregnancy Discrimination Laws in California

What is the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978?

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is a federal statute that amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This statute prohibits sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The law also states that women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions are to be treated the same for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs.

Title VII prohibits negative employer behavior due to discrimination against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.

Is pregnancy a disability?

Pregnancy itself is not considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because being pregnant is not a physiological disorder. But, if pregnancy-related complications arise that impair an employee's ability to do their job, then the employer must consider and accommodate them on a case-by-case basis.

Under California law, employers must also provide up to four months disability leave for women who are disabled due to a pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Is paid maternity leave required by law?

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a federal law that requires covered employers to provide a minimum of 12 weeks unpaid leave for qualified and medical family reasons - including for the purpose of attending to a newborn or newly adopted child.

While FMLA does not require an employer to provide paid maternity leave, an employer may require that an employee use accrued sick leave during the unpaid portion of her pregnancy leave. Employees may also request the use of sick leave or vacation leave to receive compensation during otherwise unpaid pregnancy leave. These requests are at the discretion of the employer, however.

California employees may also be entitled to additional leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to bond with their babies, adopted children or even to care for a child with a serious health condition. California employers are not required to pay an employee during CFRA leave, although certain employers do so voluntarily.

Can you be fired for being pregnant?

If you become pregnant while employed, your employer can't lawfully fire you because of your pregnancy. Similarly, if an employer doesn't hire you due to your pregnancy, this behavior is in violation of both California and federal employment laws.

Of course, employers sometimes do fire or fail to hire workers due to pregnancies, but these behaviors are illegal and should be documented and then brought to the attention of an employment attorney.

What are the signs of pregnancy discrimination at work?

If your employer is subjecting you to any of the following common discriminatory or retaliatory actions due to your pregnancy, seek legal assistance from a California employment attorney right away:

  • You weren't hired because of your pregnancy.
  • You have been verbally abused or insulted due to your pregnancy.
  • You have been denied maternity leave.
  • You have been denied adequate leave for pregnancy-related medical needs.
  • You have been denied ongoing training due to your pregnancy.
  • You have been denied promotions due to your pregnancy.
  • You have been demoted due to your pregnancy.
  • You have been denied adequate working accommodations due to your pregnancy disability.
  • You weren't allowed to return to a position of employment after maternity leave.
  • You have been terminated because you were/are pregnant.

Pregnancy Discrimination in California: Additional Information

  • California Fair Employment and Housing Act - Pregnancy
  • California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
  • Examples of Pregnancy Discrimination in California: Real-Life Cases
  • Pregnancy Discrimination in California: What Employees Should Know

If you feel you've been subjected to pregnancy discrimination in California, contact the expert pregnancy discrimination attorneys at Hennig Ruiz for your free consultation.

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