Women who are pregnant or plan to have children continue to face discrimination in many workplaces. No matter how progressive the state of California appears to be, and despite state and federal anti-discrimination laws that are in place, pregnancy discrimination is real.
The Rankin Law Firm is dedicated to helping women from all walks of life fight back against pregnancy discrimination. We leverage our in-depth knowledge of the applicable pregnancy discrimination laws to hold employers accountable and protect the rights of pregnant workers. When you become our client, you will have comfort knowing that our experienced pregnancy discrimination attorneys are in your corner. Contact our office today to set up a consultation.
Identifying Pregnancy Discrimination in California
Pregnancy discrimination occurs when a female employee or job applicant receives unfair treatment due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Whether you have been fired or denied a job or any other benefit of employment because of your pregnancy, you may have a valid claim.
Of course, pregnancy discrimination is not always obvious. A job applicant may be denied a job because “the position has already been filled.” Similarly, a pregnant woman may be passed over for a promotion in favor of a less qualified employee (male or female) or be denied pregnancy disability leave. Finally, being harassed because of your pregnancy is also considered a form of unlawful discrimination.
Under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), employers are prohibited from making employment decisions (e.g. hiring, firing, compensating, promoting) based on pregnancy. The PDA also requires employers to treat pregnant women who are unable to perform their jobs no differently than other temporarily disabled workers.
Moreover, pregnant workers must be allowed to stay on the job as long as they are able to do so and cannot be forced to leave work at a certain time in their pregnancy. The PDA also requires employers to allow a woman who is temporarily disabled because of her pregnancy to take a disability leave if other employees with temporary disabilities are permitted to do so.
It is important to note that the PDA covers employers with 15 or more workers. However, pregnant workers have stronger legal protection under the California Fair Employment Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which applies to employers with 5 or more employees.
In particular, FEHA prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee based on sex, which is defined to include pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and medical conditions related to pregnancy. In short, pregnancy discrimination is an unlawful form of sex discrimination in California.
Your Right to Pregnancy Disability Leave in California
Under California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL), employers with at least five employees must provide up to four months of unpaid disability leave to a woman who is disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Leave time may be used for:
- Prenatal care
- Severe morning sickness
- Doctor-ordered bed rest
- Recovery from childbirth
- Any pregnancy-related medical condition
A pregnant worker can take leave any time she is unable to work because of pregnancy or a related medical condition. In addition, leave need not be taken over a continuous time period but may be used intermittently as needed or on a reduced work schedule. A pregnant worker who takes disability leave is guaranteed she will be able to return to the same position unless she would have lost her job for a legitimate business reason (e.g. layoff).
Finally, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), both mothers and fathers are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn. Also, pregnant women who are on FMLA leave must be allowed to accrue seniority, paid time off, and other related benefits in the same way as employees who are on leave for reasons not related to pregnancy.
What is pregnancy harassment?
Under both the PDA and FEHA, it is illegal to harass a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Employers can be held liable when a supervisor, co-worker, client, or customer makes inappropriate or unwanted comments about a woman’s pregnancy and the comments are so severe or pervasive that they create a hostile work environment or result in an adverse employment action (e.g. termination or demotion).
Reasons for Pregnancy Discrimination in California
Some employers who believe that a pregnant woman may not be able to perform her duties adequately or that disability leaves are disruptive to the business engage in various forms of pregnancy discrimination, including:
- Refusing to hire a pregnant woman or a woman who may become pregnant
- Firing or demoting a pregnant worker
- Reassigning a pregnant worker’s job duties
- Failing to allow a pregnant woman to take disability leave
- Giving unfavorable performance reviews to a pregnant woman with a good track record
- Eliminating a position when a worker returns from leave
How to Fight Pregnancy Discrimination
To have a valid claim, you must be able to show that you were treated differently or suffered an adverse employment action due to your pregnancy. Before you file a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit under state law, you must file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). If a settlement cannot be negotiated, you can request an immediate right to sue notice from the agency.
Contact Our Experienced California Discrimination Attorneys
If you have been subjected to pregnancy discrimination, turn to The Rankin Law Firm. When you consult with us, we will carefully assess your claim, determine the best course of action, and help you recover just compensation. We have a proven history of achieving positive outcomes in pregnancy discrimination claims. Contact us today to learn how we can help.