It can be stressful to navigate the new challenges that come with being pregnant, let alone being worried about its implications for your professional life. There is a ton of uncertainty and worry that usually goes along with pregnancy. One of these major concerns for those who are expecting is whether they can be fired from their jobs for missing any unexpected time away from work due to their pregnancy. From unforeseen doctor appointments to simply needing to rest more, pregnancy can make the day-to-day harder to plan for than it was before. Fortunately, certain laws were specifically designed to protect you in the workplace if you are expecting.
At both the federal and state levels, there are many different laws that have been established to protect pregnant employees. If you are pregnant, it is vital that you know your legal rights under these laws.
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act does not allow anyone to fire or treat an employee differently because they are pregnant, have given birth, or are experiencing a related medical condition. Also, the Family and Medical Leave Act gives employees as much as 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave per year for these same pregnancy-related conditions. It is a comforting protection that many expecting and new parents rely on.
There are even more laws in place for California residents that protect pregnant employees. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act echoes the PDA by prohibiting pregnancy discrimination but also requiring employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees. For example, employers may need to modify work duties or provide more frequent breaks. The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) supplements the FMLA by also offering 12 weeks of job-protected leave. This time can be used for baby bonding.
Being fired for missing work due to pregnancy can be distressing. It is also unlawful, and you are entitled to fight back. If you think you might be fired:
A: In 2024, California offers two types of leave related to pregnancy: Pregnancy Disability Leave and California Family Rights Act leave. PDL offers up to 4 months (17 1/3 weeks) if you’re disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. After childbirth, if you’re no longer disabled, you can take CFRA leave for baby bonding, which is an additional 12 weeks. This means you could have up to 7 months of leave. It is a generous and comforting protection that gives parents enough time to set their families up for success with their new addition.
A: To qualify for pregnancy disability leave in California, you must work for an employer who has five or more employees on the payroll. That is just the bare minimum requirement. You may also be facing some sort of impairment from your pregnancy or any new condition from childbirth. This could be because of a complication due to pregnancy or a need for prenatal or postnatal care. Once your doctor’s note is received, your employer must grant you PDL. To many people’s advantage, there is no minimum hours worked requirement to qualify for PDL. However, your healthcare provider will be required to certify the duration and reason for your leave.
A: You can’t be fired for being sick due to pregnancy. This is a normal response to being pregnant, and each individual’s sickness during the process varies. If your pregnancy does cause an illness that completely prevents you from continuing to work, it could be considered a disability under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. At this point, your employer must provide a reasonable accommodation that respects your condition. This could include allowing you to take time off work.
A: While you’re on a legally protected leave, you can feel comfortable focusing on your family while knowing that your job is protected. This means your employer must return you to the same or comparable position when you’re ready to return to work. While you are away, it is common practice for your employer to assign someone else to perform your duties in the interim. This should not cause any concern. They need to keep operations running while you are away, and the job should be waiting for you upon your return.
If you have any lingering confusion or concerns about pregnancy discrimination, you should contact The Law Office of Frank S. Clowney III. We have been dealing with the traditional fears that come with pregnancy discrimination for many years. Contact us today.