There are two primary laws affecting the rights of pregnant workers in California: the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Both laws overlap in some areas but are different in others.
CFRA Maternity and Paternity Leave
First, the CFRA only applies to employers with at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the employee. Second, to qualify for CFRA leave, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least one year, and performed at least 1,250 hours of work in the past year. If you qualify, CFRA guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to any parent for the birth of their child, to bond with their baby, or to take care of a sick family member.
FEHA Maternity Leave
The FEHA also guarantees four months of maternity leave for any disability related to your pregnancy. Any employer who employes five or more employees is covered by the FEHA. This can be for childbirth, recovery from childbirth, from complications during the pregnancy, or for any other reason that your doctor may want you to stop working during your pregnancy.
This leave can be applied cumulatively with CFRA leave, meaning that under some circumstances California employees are entitled to up to seven months of unpaid maternity leave. Importantly, the FEHA has no minimum service time requirement, meaning that from day one, you are protected.
If your employer offers health benefits, they cannot cut them off while you are out. If you are out longer than four months however, your employer may be entitled to end your benefits, as long as this policy is applied equally to other employees who also take extended medical leaves.
Retaliation and Discrimination
Pregnant women are also entitled to protection from discrimination because the are pregnant. It is illegal to fire or not hire someone because they are pregnant, or because they requested time off for their pregnancy.
Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Women
In some cases, your employer may be required to provide more than four months of leave, or some other accommodation such as a change in your work schedule or duties, if you suffer from a pregnancy related disability. The FEHA has broad protections requiring that employers “reasonably accommodate” employees who are disabled. If your doctor thinks you should make changes at work to protect you or your baby’s health, your employer is legally obligated to work with you to try and accommodate you.