If you are trying for a baby, you might be worried about your career. Thankfully, California employment law protects you from discrimination because of pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions resulting from them.
California Law Bans Pregnancy Discrimination
Federal law also bans pregnancy discrimination, but California law is tighter; while federal law only cuts in at 15 or more employees, in California the law affects any employer with 5 or more employees. The law says that your employer cannot fire, refuse to hire, bar, harass, discharge or otherwise discriminate against you because you are pregnant, have recently given birth, or have a complication of pregnancy. The law also protects you from discrimination after a pregnancy loss.
Harassment is prohibited in all workplaces. Even if you are, for example, a small business owner’s sole administrative assistant, you are still protected. This includes protection from harassment by clients, customers, and vendors.
What if You Are Unable To Work Due to Pregnancy?
If you are unable to work due to a complication of pregnancy, you are entitled to up to four months of Pregnancy Disability Leave. Qualifying conditions include severe morning sickness, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, postpartum depression, etc. This also includes recovery from pregnancy loss or a stillbirth.
This leave can be taken all at once or intermittently. This means that if you need a day off because you have particularly bad morning sickness that day, you should be able to count it as PDL.
What About Reasonable Accommodations?
Employers are expected to provide reasonable accommodations to allow you to continue to work while pregnant and nursing. These might include:
- Providing a stool or seat.
- Allowing more frequent bathroom breaks.
- Temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous job. You have the right to return to your old job after the pregnancy. For example, if you are normally engaged in activities with a high risk of a fall, then you can be moved to a safer job, and then back.
- Providing you with a private area to pump milk if you are breastfeeding.
- Allowing you to keep water at your workstation if this is not normally allowed.
- Limiting heavy lifting.
- Modification of work hours (for example, if you have morning sickness, letting you come in a bit later when you feel better).
- Adjustment of dress codes or uniforms to allow for the physical changes that happen during pregnancy including, for example, swollen ankles.
- Allowing you to telecommute if your job can be done that way and if they would typically allow it for disabled workers.
Your employer cannot treat pregnancy as any different from any other illness or disability when providing accommodations. That is to say, if they don’t normally provide these accommodations and are too small to be governed by the ADA, then you may be out of luck. An employer also cannot provide accommodations to one pregnant employee and not another; for example, they cannot treat an unmarried person as different from a married one, or a trans man who is pregnant different from a cis woman.
A company cannot be asked to accommodate pregnancy if it would cause the company “undue hardship.” For example, they can’t be expected to create a job for you to transfer to if they don’t routinely have light duties to offer.
You have rights during pregnancy. If you feel that you have been a victim of discrimination or if, for example, you are being denied extended breaks when a coworker with a different condition is being allowed them, then you need a good lawyer to help you get your rights. This is where Aiman-Smith & Marcy come in.
We are experienced employment, consumer fraud and class action lawyers, and we can deal with any and all types of workplace harassment and discrimination, including resulting from pregnancy or childbirth. Contact us to find out how we can help you deal with discrimination or harassment, or if you have been fired for being pregnant.