Workplace protections for pregnant employees in California

On Behalf of | Nov 24, 2021 | Employment Law |

Labor laws in California protect employees from discrimination based on pregnancy or medical conditions related to pregnancy. The Fair Employment and Housing Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, and the law allows pregnant workers to take up to four months of pregnancy disability leave. These protections are enforced by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Reasonable accommodations

Employers in California are expected to accommodate the reasonable requests of pregnant workers, and the Labor Code requires them to set aside a private area that new mothers can use to express breast milk. This private area should be as close as possible to the new mother’s workstation. Examples of accommodations requested by pregnant employees include:

  • Transferring to a less hazardous or less strenuous position
  • Making work schedules more flexible
  • Increasing the number of permitted rest breaks
  • Providing a chair or stool to relieve back pain
  • Reassigning parking spaces
  • Making exceptions to company dress codes
  • Allowing employees to work from home

Workers should give their employers enough time to accommodate these requests. They may be asked to provide a certification from their medical providers to establish that they are necessary.

Pregnancy disability leave

Pregnancy disability leave in California is granted only for the amount of time that a worker is disabled by pregnancy. The state’s employment law does not specify an automatic period that employees are entitled to, but pregnancy disability leave can last for up to four months. When employees take pregnancy disability leave, they can ask their employers to guarantee in writing that their positions will be available to them when they return. This kind of leave does not have to be taken all at once, and new mothers who have returned to the workplace can take additional leave to attend postnatal medical appointments.

A more productive workplace

Making reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees and allowing them to take time off to cope with the medical and emotional burdens of pregnancy and childbirth will benefit employers as well as workers. Complying with labor laws freely and willingly lets employees know that they are valued, which can improve workplace morale and nurture loyalty and commitment.