In California, a woman who is disabled by pregnancy is covered under the California Fair Employment and Housing legislation’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Act. This means that an employee who is disabled by pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition may take up to four months of protected leave. Under this law, an employee who works 40 hours per week would be entitled to 693 hours, or just over 17 weeks, of protected leave.
Definition of pregnancy disability
Under the law, a woman is considered disabled by pregnancy if her health care provider states that she is unable to work at all or unable to perform one or more of the essential functions of her position without risk to herself or the successful completion of the pregnancy. Essential functions that may be considered disability issues in pregnancy include:
- Bed rest ordered by the doctor
- Gestational diabetes
- Hypertension induced by the pregnancy
- Loss or end of pregnancy
- Post-partum depression
- Prenatal care
- Recovery from childbirth
- Severe morning sickness
It is important to note that breastfeeding or lactation without problems is not considered a disabling medical condition entitling the employee to leave. However, the employer may have to provide other accommodations.
If the woman does not have complications in pregnancy, the employee’s pregnancy disability leave would begin at the time of delivery. If the employee has already exhausted leave provided for the disability issues, the California Family Rights Act would begin, allowing for another 12 weeks of protected leave.
Who must follow the law?
Employers who employ 50 or more people are required to follow the act. Unlike the Family Medical Leave Act, the employee does not have to be employed for one year and work 1,250 hours to be eligible. If a doctor does not release the employee at the end of the four months, employers are required to discuss with the employee what accommodations are needed and, if those accommodations cannot be met, may be required to offer additional leave. Because the law is relatively strict in California regarding pregnant employees, discussing pregnancy disability issues with an attorney is strongly advised.
Although many employers are willing to accommodate an employee who is dealing with a complicated pregnancy, not all employers understand or follow the law. Talking to an attorney may be the best way to protect your rights under the law.