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California Pregnancy Discrimination and Child Bonding Guide


If you’re expecting a child in California, you have several protections under federal laws like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Pregnancy laws in California, such as the Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) and California Family Rights Act, offer additional leave options for disability and child bonding.

Understanding California’s pregnancy discrimination laws can help you protect your rights when facing pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

If your employer breaks these rules, you can work with a California pregnancy discrimination lawyer to help you file a complaint and receive compensation.

What are Your Workplace Rights Regarding Pregnancy and Child Bonding in California?

As a pregnant employee, the three most important pieces of legislation outlining your rights are the California Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL), the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL)

California laws (CA Gov. Code 12945(b)(2)) entitle pregnant employees working for a business with 5 employees or more to benefit from Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL).

Taking leave for pregnancy disability in California entitles you to up to 4 months of disability leave, or 88 workdays for a full-time employee, with the following rules and conditions:

  • If your employer provides more than 4 months of leave for other temporary disabilities, they must offer the same leave period length for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.
  • PDL only applies during childbirth and maternity disability in California. It includes any time off needed for prenatal care, doctor-ordered days of rest, childbirth recovery periods, or conditions such as severe morning sickness.
  • Although PDL leave is unpaid, you can use alternative forms of leave, such as PTO, vacation, or sick leave.
  • PDL is consecutive with Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, meaning the leave periods provided by both laws do not overlap.

California Family Rights Act Leave – Child Bonding

If a new child enters your family by birth, adoption, or foster placement, you may be eligible for California Family Rights Act (CFRA) leave for child bonding.

The California baby bonding law allows you to claim up to 12 weeks of leave for child bonding within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or first day of foster care. If you are eligible for CFRA leave, you must submit at least 30 days advance notice.

Your employer must reinstate you in the same or a comparable job at the end of the leave period. If your organization allows it, you may continue accruing seniority and benefits, such as health coverage, while on CFRA leave.

While CFRA leave does not overlap with PDL, it runs simultaneously with Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave.

Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a federal labor law requiring employers to provide their staff with unpaid leave for qualifying family and medical reasons.

Under the FMLA, an eligible pregnant employee is entitled to 12 weeks of leave from work within 12 months of the birth of a child to care for a newborn. You may also request FMLA leave if you have a pregnancy-related health condition and must deal with pregnancy-related medical needs for childbirth recovery.

The FMLA covers both the public and private sectors. In the private sector, the Act applies only to businesses that employ 50 or more people for at least 20 work weeks. FMLA eligibility requires you to meet the following criteria:

  • Work for a covered entity or business
  • Worked 1,250 hours or more in the 12 months prior to the first day of leave
  • Work at a location with 50 or more employees within 75 miles
  • Have worked for the employer for a minimum of 12 months

If you are eligible for FMLA leave, federal law requires you to give your employer at least 30 days’ notice before taking FMLA leave. The FMLA requires the leave from work to be job-protected, meaning employees taking leave must retain their position, benefits, and protection while absent.

What Constitutes Pregnancy Discrimination?

In California, pregnancy discrimination refers to unfavorable treatment or bias against an employee due to her pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This form of discrimination is prohibited under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the state-level Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

The law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate in all areas of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, or benefits, based on pregnancy. Examples of pregnancy discrimination may include:

  • Refusing to hire: Declining to hire candidates solely because they are pregnant or may become pregnant.
  • Job termination: Firing an employee because of their pregnancy or maternity leave.
  • Demotion or reduced hours: Reducing a pregnant employee’s rank, salary, or responsibilities without a valid reason. Similarly, cutting back a pregnant employee’s work hours without cause.
  • Denial of promotions: Overlooking or bypassing a deserving pregnant employee for promotions due to their condition.
  • Unreasonable accommodation refusals: Failing to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, such as comfortable seating, more frequent breaks, or modified duties.
  • Inadequate maternity leave: Not allowing employees to take legally protected maternity leave or penalizing them for it.
  • Harassment: Subjecting the employee to derogatory comments, jokes, or behaviors focused on pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions, thereby creating a hostile work environment.
  • Unequal treatment: Treating pregnant employees differently in any aspect of employment, including pay, job assignments, training, or benefits, compared to other employees with similar ability or inability to work.
  • Retaliation: Punishing an employee for filing a complaint about pregnancy discrimination or supporting a co-worker’s complaint.
  • Failure to reinstate: Not allowing an employee to return to her original job or an equivalent position after her maternity or pregnancy disability leave is over.
  • Discrimination in health benefits: Providing lesser health benefits for pregnancy-related medical needs compared to what is offered for other medical conditions.
  • Denial of bonding leave: Refusing to grant eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for bonding with a new child, as guaranteed under CFRA.

Actions to Take for Pregnancy-Related Discrimination

If you are expecting or recently became a mother and your employer violates your rights under California pregnancy laws, you can take action within specific timeframes, depending on the complaint. The following steps can protect your rights and help you file a complaint to hold your employer accountable and provide you with compensation:

  • Documentation: Keep a detailed record of incidents, including dates, times, people involved, and what was said or done. Gather relevant emails, texts, and other evidence, such as witness statements.
  • Report internally: Report the issue to your Human Resources department and follow the company’s internal grievance procedures. Keep copies of all communication.
  • File a formal complaint: Depending on your location and the size of your employer, you may need to file a complaint with a government agency, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or California’s Civil Rights Department (CRD), formerly known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
  • Seek legal representation: Consult an employment attorney specializing in pregnancy discrimination cases to discuss your options and prepare for potential legal proceedings. Legal advice can be invaluable for navigating complex employment laws and maximizing your chances of a favorable outcome.

Protect Your Rights in the Workplace

As a pregnant employee in California, state and federal laws protect your rights against discrimination. If your employer has denied your request for the leave you are entitled to, has terminated you in response to a request, or if you face other forms of pregnancy discrimination, take action immediately.

Seeking the help of an expert pregnancy discrimination lawyer can help you get the justice you deserve. They can help you understand your rights, hold the discriminating employer accountable, and recover compensation for lost wages, pay cuts, emotional distress, and other damages you suffered.


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