Pregnancy Discrimination in the California Workplace | ASM Lawyers
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Pregnancy Discrimination in the California Workplace

The laws governing pregnancy-related discrimination are very complex and challenging. There are federal laws and state laws that provide specific protections; the law that applies will usually depend on the type of harm alleged. Attempting to navigate these laws without an attorney who is practiced in these matters may cause you to lose benefits to which you may otherwise be entitled. 

Employment Law Attorneys can help by:

  • Collecting relevant information
  • Applying the law in a compelling manner
  • Avoiding the strategic pitfalls
  • Maximizing financial damages

Pregnant employee discrimination

Unlawful pregnancy discrimination can occur in several ways, for example:

  • Not hiring a pregnant woman (or one who may become pregnant)
  • Demoting or firing a woman who has developed a pregnancy-related medical condition 
  • Not providing “reasonable accommodations” for a pregnant woman’s disabilities
  • Denying time off to a woman for childbirth or medical conditions related to childbirth who is legally entitled 
  • Discriminating against women who pump, breastfeed, or need to treat medical conditions related to breastfeeding

Laws Protecting Against Discrimination

The Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating based on childbirth, pregnancy, or related medical conditions. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) applies to employers with five or more employees and provides this as well as other protections.

Many laws apply to both of these Acts. A skilled attorney that has litigated several pregnancy discrimination cases in the California workplace will work to your benefit. 

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

This act was introduced to allow the parents of a new child, whether adopted or born into the family, to take unpaid leave, while protecting their job. Employees who qualify and take such leaves must be reinstated to their same or a comparable position.

If an employer refuses to hire, terminates, or harasses an employee because they require pregnancy-related leave (or they may need it in the future), these acts could be considered unlawful pregnancy discrimination. The employer could be in violation of the applicable leave laws.

Elements of the Claim

The employee or job applicant has the burden of proving specific facts that an employer engaged in unlawful discrimination. 

Although California’s anti-discrimination laws do not protect volunteers and independent contractors, they are protected by California’s provisions that prohibit pregnancy-based harassment.

Treating pregnant women differently due to their pregnancy or recent childbirth, concerning compensation, work conditions, or job assignments can be considered discrimination.

Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy-Related Disabilities

If an employee becomes disabled by her pregnancy or a condition related to childbirth, the employer will have an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations. In some cases, female employees may also become physically or mentally impaired during or after delivery. As it stands, California law prohibits employers with 5 or more employees from discriminating based on an employee’s:

  • Physical disability
  • Mental disability
  • Medical condition
  • Genetic condition

Unless accommodations would be significantly difficult and expensive, if an employee requires an accommodation to do their job, the employer has a legal obligation to provide it.

Additionally, reasonable accommodation may be necessary to modify the employee’s work conditions and permit the employee to work in comfort. Employers are required to consider all reasonable accommodations.

Do You Have a Case?

This question is important because you may be eligible to receive additional compensation under California law for back pay, punitive damages, and compensation for emotional pain and suffering.

Your attorney will review several factors to determine whether you have a strong case. You may have a strong case if one or more of the following facts are present:

  • You were treated negatively because of pregnancy
  • Your pay was decreased because of your pregnancy
  • You received negative performance reviews because of your pregnancy
  • Work hours have been reduced because of your pregnancy
  • You are terminated because of your pregnancy

Whether it’s a case of unfair treatment due to pregnancy, refusal to provide reasonable accommodations, or a leave that extends beyond the standard statutory guidelines is denied, we can help you get you your rightful benefits.  Please contact Aiman-Smith & Marcy today to determine if you have a legal claim for workplace pregnancy discrimination.