California Pregnancy Disability Leave
Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, employers with 5 or more employees must give up to 4 months of unpaid disability leave to women facing time off work because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related illness. California pregnancy disability leave (PDL) also requires that employers transfer you to a less hazardous or strenuous position within the company during your pregnancy, if necessary. In other words, your employer must make reasonable accommodations when you are having a baby. The only excuse a company has to deny reasonable accommodations is if it can prove such accommodations would put an undue burden or strain on the organization.
PDL can be triggered by several qualifying events concerning pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions. These events include, but are not limited to, bed rest ordered by your doctor; childbirth and recovery from childbirth; prenatal visits and care; and severe morning sickness. Every woman working for a covered employer is eligible for PDL, regardless of full- or part-time status or length of service. However, she must be unable to perform one or more of her job functions due to pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition in order to qualify .
Women who qualify for PDL are eligible for up to 4 months of unpaid leave. Although your employer can hire a temporary staff person to fill in during your absence, the company must allow you to return to your previous position or a position that has similar pay and responsibilities. You may take PDL on an as-needed basis and in small increments rather than at weeks at a time if recommended by your health care provider. In addition, your employer must treat PDL like other temporary disabilities, in that any policies that apply to temporarily disabled workers must also apply to you.
You can use PDL in addition to the 12 weeks of leave provided by the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to give you time to bond with your new child. See article on California Unpaid Family Leave.
California PDL runs concurrently with time off dictated by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), since that law applies to both bonding and pregnancy-related disability. See article on Family and Medical Leave Act for more information. You may also receive State Disability Insurance (SDI) while on PDL. See article on California State Disability Insurance.
There are several limitations on PDL in California law. These include an employer’s right to demand medical certification of your disability and an employer’s right to discontinue health insurance or other benefits if this is their policy for other types of disability leave. Thus, companies that provide benefits for temporary disabilities and extend leave beyond 4 months must do the same for pregnancy-related disabilities. You have the option of using paid vacation leave for part of your PDL, which may be a good thing since you will be paid for that time in full. Transferring women who need reduced work schedules to other positions is allowable, but only if those positions provide equal benefits and pay and require the same skill set.
If possible, you must provide your employer with at least 30 days notice before taking PDL However, medical emergencies do not require this much notice and you cannot be denied leave due to an unforeseen absence. Certification given to your employer must show date of disability, time needed off work, and an explanation of why you cannot work. Employers must inform all employees of their right to take PDL and include this information in company handbooks. While you need not file a claim with a California agency to obtain PDL, you must request PDL from your employer directly and you may be asked to support your request with medical documentation (i.e., a doctor’s certificate).
Your employer must guarantee the same or a directly comparable position on your return from PDL. The only circumstance in which an employer can deny you the same position is if it had to be eliminated due to layoffs or location closures. In addition, your employer is required to provide you with a less hazardous or strenuous position if needed, and if such a position exists. Your employer must also accommodate reasonable recommendations from a doctor.
If you are denied PDL or feel that you are being unfairly discriminated against, get in touch with the Work and Family Information Line at 1-800-880-8047. You may also wish to contact the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement To contact a California employment lawyer, visit AttorneyPages.