What are my rights as a pregnant employee?

Frank S. Clowney III

Expecting San Diego mothers should be able to enjoy their pregnancy and the time leading up to the birth of their child without having to worry about their job. Discriminating against an employee because they are pregnant is illegal, and there are several legal rights pregnant employees have that employers must honor.

Employer requirements

There are several things California employers are required to do for their pregnant employees. These include:

  • Provide pregnancy disability leave
  • Provide a reasonable accommodation for medical needs
  • Transfer pregnant employees to more suitable positions if medically necessary
  • Allow pregnant employees adequate break time

Employers must also allow pregnant employees to work near a private break room or other location to allow them to express breast milk. Pregnancy disability leave is available for up to 4 months. However, the total amount of leave is determined by each pregnant employee’s specific situation and medical needs. If a doctor concludes that additional pregnancy leave is necessary, the employer must grant this extra leave.

After pregnancy disability leave ends, an employee must be returned to the same position they left. If that position is no longer available, the law requires that they be returned to a job of the same rank and salary. An employer must guarantee this in writing at the time the pregnancy disability leave is requested.

Employees who are still working must receive reasonable accommodations related to their pregnancy, if requested. A reasonable accommodation could include something as broad as a temporary adjustment of duties involved with the employee’s position, or simple changes, such as providing the employee with an extra bathroom break or a more comfortable workspace.

It is important to note that an employer may not require that pregnancy disability leave be taken all at once. Under California law, pregnancy disability leave may be taken in increments, and can be used for things such as doctor’s appointments, unexpected medical issues and post-partum depression.

Pregnancy disability leave does not require full days or weeks off, but employees may return to work part-time or only work certain hours, while using pregnancy disability leave to cover the remaining hours.

A pregnant woman often has many things on her mind, and many things to do to prepare for the birth of a child. Fair treatment from an employer during this time is necessary.