California has several laws that touch on maternity leave, including pregnancy discrimination and pregnancy disability leave (PDL). This law requires nearly all employers to provide employees with job-protected leave for a pregnancy-related disability that is confirmed by a health professional.
PDL provides up to four months of job-protected time off for employees with a disability stemming from their pregnancy, childbirth, or another related medical condition. It is protected under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), and businesses with five or more employees must provide PDL. The only exceptions are non-profit businesses and religious organizations.
With the advice of a physician, an employee can also request a reasonable accommodation from their employer, such as a request for transfer to a less hazardous or strenuous position or duties. Leave can be continuous or intermittent, and can include a reduced work schedule, and/or time away for treatments and appointments.
Employers must be given reasonable notice of at least 30 days prior to PDL. The notice should include the date when the leave is anticipated to take place, the expected duration, as well as sufficient facts to make the employer aware of the need for PDL.
The types of pregnancy-related disabilities that may qualify for PDL include:
Women have the right to take leave from work for any disability related to pregnancy, not exclusive to this list. However, it must be caused by her pregnancy, certified by a healthcare provider, and either doesn’t allow her to perform at least one essential job duty, or a job-related task will place her, her pregnancy, or someone else at risk.
Your employer’s policy for other medical leaves will dictate whether or not your PDL will be paid or unpaid, since California law does not require them to. Employers may have you use any available sick time, or may let you choose. Vacation time can also be used at your discretion, but an employer cannot force you to use it. By law, your employer must continue your group health coverage at the same contribution rates.
If your employer does not provide payment while you are on PDL, you may be eligible to receive state disability insurance or Paid Family Leave (PFL).
Women who take PDL cannot be terminated or be placed in a lesser position than their previous one when they return. The only exception is if the position was eliminated by the employer due to a mass layoff or for a reason that is completely unrelated to the employee’s leave. If the employee is given a comparable position, it must be at the same hourly rate or salary, with the same benefits and similar duties. The position must also require the same amount of experience and education.