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Understanding a Pregnant Woman's Rights in California Workplaces

Pregnant women in California have certain protections under federal and state laws. Unfortunately, however, some employers are either ignorant when it comes to these laws or willfully choose to ignore their obligations. Whether intentional or not, when an employer violates these employment laws, it is important to talk to a lawyer experienced in handling pregnancy discrimination and other workplace violations.

Protections for pregnant women include:

1. Discrimination based on pregnancy is not allowed.

2. Covered employers are required to provide up to four months disability leave, regardless of how long the employee has been with the company. It does not matter whether she is a full-time or part-time employee. If the employer routinely provides more than four months of leave for other temporary disabilities, then pregnant women must be allowed the same extended leave. This leave can be used for prenatal care, bed rest ordered by a doctor or severe morning sickness, childbirth and recovery from childbirth.

3. During the time period while a pregnant woman is on leave for pregnancy- or childbirth-related disability, her employer must continue her health insurance (if they were providing it prior to the leave.)

4. Women must be allowed to use their accumulated paid time off for their leave. Some employers will require employees to use that time off, and the law allows for that.

5. Employers must provide "reasonable accommodations" if a pregnant woman's doctor advises such accommodations, and if the pregnant woman requests them.

6. California law says that women who are eligible for CFRA leave may take up to 12 weeks of CFRA leave in addition to the four months of required leave time for pregnancy or childbirth. CFRA leave may be used to bond with a new baby (including adopted children), or caring for another family member with a serious medical condition.

7. After a pregnancy-related disability leave authorized by California law, a woman who returns within the four-month period must be returned to the same job. If that job is no longer open because of an office or plant closure, the employer must offer a comparable role.

Employers in California are required to provide employees with, or conspicuously post, a notices describing the right to request either a pregnancy-related disability leave or a transfer to another position that is less strenuous.

This is not a comprehensive list of protections, but is intended as an overview of a pregnant woman's rights under the law. If you or someone you love has been denied workplace rights while pregnant, contact a knowledgeable, experienced employment law attorney who can vigorously advocate on your behalf.

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