California and federal law prohibits pregnancy discrimination in hiring, firing, and the terms and conditions of employment. California law also guarantees employees the right to take job-protected pregnancy leave under some circumstances.

Pregnancy discrimination involves treating a pregnant employee (or prospective employee) less than favorably due to the pregnancy. Examples of pregnancy discrimination may include:

  • Terminating an employee after discovering she is pregnant                       
  • Refusing to promote or give a pay raise to an employee because she is pregnant
  • Refusing to grant maternity leave
  • Refusing to hire a prospective employee because she is pregnant

If a woman is disabled by her pregnancy, her employer may also be required to provide her reasonable accommodations, such as additional bathroom breaks or easing of normal physical requirements (such as lifting and carrying).

Depending on the size of their employer, pregnant women may have the right to take maternity leave. 

California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (“CPDLL”) (Govt. Code Section 12945), which applies to employers who have five or more employees, makes it illegal for an employer to refuse to allow an employee who is “disabled by pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition” to take a leave for a “reasonable period of time not to exceed four months” and thereafter return to work. Thus, this law provides for up to four months of job-protected leave, but only to the extent the employee is actually disabled by her pregnancy (i.e., her doctor says she cannot work).

Under the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”), employers with 50 or more employers are required to allow an employee to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave, with employer-paid health, dental and vision benefits, for the birth of a child (including bonding time) or a pregnancy-related disability.

The job-protected leaves under CFRA and CPDLL are cumulative. Thus, a woman disabled by pregnancy and childbirth for four months may then take an additional 12 weeks of bonding time under CFRA, for a total of almost 7 months of total maternity leave. 

Employers are generally not required to pay their employees while they are on maternity leave. However, if the employer’s internal personnel policies provide for paid leave for other types of temporary disabilities, then the employer must also provide for paid maternity leave

Moreover, under California’s Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) law, a pregnant mother can receive up to four weeks of state disability insurance (“SDI”) for a normal pregnancy before her expected due date. She can also receive up to six weeks (for a normal delivery) or eight weeks (for Cesarean section) of SDI benefits after the delivery to recover from childbirth.  To be eligible, she must have paid into the SDI in the previous 5 to 18 months.

If you believe you have been illegally denied maternity leave, or discriminated against because of pregnancy, please call Hubbs Disability Law for a free consultation at (800) 8834-3492, or fill out our contact form.