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Rand L. Stephens & Richard Koss

Working While Pregnant in California – What Are My Rights?

Working during pregnancy

As a woman working at a company in California today, you have the right to be free from discrimination based on your gender, sex, or sexual orientation. Unlike years past, pregnancy no longer means the end of your job or your career. California law protects you from unequal treatment based on your pregnancy status and grants you certain affirmative rights. Read on to learn about your rights as a pregnant worker in California, and contact a dedicated California pregnancy discrimination lawyer for help with an employment-related matter.


California’s Fair Employment & Housing Act (“FEHA”) prohibits covered employers from discriminating against an employee based on sex. Under the law, “sex” is defined to include pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and medical conditions related to any of these activities. Your employer cannot fire you, refuse to hire or promote you, demote you, take away job responsibilities or discriminate against you with regard to training, compensation, or any other aspect of employment based on the fact that you are pregnant.

If you are fired or an employer refuses to hire you based on the fact that you are pregnant, or if you suspect that your pregnancy is the reason for the adverse employment decision, contact a pregnancy discrimination attorney to help you investigate. You may have a claim for damages against the employer or potential employer.


Employers are also required to accommodate pregnant workers and pregnancy-related activities and conditions. If, for example, you experience morning sickness and it is causing you to be late for work, inform your doctor and your employer. If feasible, your employer is required to accommodate you coming in late or otherwise work around your morning sickness. If you get dizzy spells or other maledictions throughout the day, you can work with your employer to figure out a modified schedule.

Other reasonable accommodations may include providing you with a chair or stool, allowing you more frequent breaks, modifying your work duties, or transferring you to a less strenuous or hazardous position. Your employer can require medical verification of your limitations from your doctor. As long as the necessary accommodations are reasonable, your employer must work with you to find a way for you to continue working and getting paid.

Pregnancy Disability Leave

California law treats pregnancy leave differently and with many more benefits than federal law. Under California law, a woman may take up to four months of disability leave relating to the birth of her child. A doctor should certify when the woman is disabled and unable to work. This time could include weeks or months before and after the baby is born. PDL is available to anyone who is disabled as a result of pregnancy and works for an employer with five or more employees. You can take your PDL in different chunks throughout the pregnancy. This leave can also include time for doctor’s appointments and tests while you are working during the pregnancy. PDL is also job-protected but unpaid leave. Your employer may require you to use your other sick leave as part of your PDL, and you may elect to use vacation days to receive some compensation during this time. After PDL, the employer must reinstate you to the same—not equivalent—position you held before she took the leave, unless your position is eliminated for unrelated business reasons.

Leave for Bonding

Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), qualified California employees (both parents) are guaranteed up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected family or medical leave in the child’s first year of life to bond with a new child. To qualify for this leave, you must have been employed for at least twelve months within the past five years and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year prior to your request for leave, and you must work within 75 miles of at least 20 employees in your company.

Job-protected leave means that your job or a comparable position must be waiting for you when you return from leave, unless your position is eliminated for unrelated business reasons. Note that the leave does not have to be paid.

Additionally, even if you do not qualify for CFRA leave (i.e., if you did not work for the requisite number of years or hours for that company), you are still guaranteed up to four months of pregnancy disability leave (PDL) under California law.Your CFRA leave is in addition to the PDL.

If you are a San Francisco Bay Area employee or an employer in need of legal advice or representation with a claim of workplace discrimination, wrongful termination, or retaliation, contact the Richard Koss Bay Area employment law attorneys at 650-722-7046 on the San Francisco Peninsula or 925-757-1700 in the East Bay.

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