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California Law on Maternity Leave May Be Expanding

Adults in California may need to take time off from work when they are pregnant as well as after the birth or adoption of a new child. Workers who need to take time off from work during pregnancy and after they have children have certain rights under state and federal laws. Potential expansions of the parental leave laws are being discussed in Los Angeles and would offer greater protections to workers. These expansions may likewise be passed across the state and positively affect all Californians.

Overview of Current Laws

The laws in California provide for three main types of maternity leave, including the following:

  • Pregnancy disability leave
  • Reasonable accommodation leave
  • Family leave

People who suffer pregnancy-related disabilities are able to take up to four months off from work if they meet the requirements. If the workers exhaust their other types of allowed leave, their employers may still be required to give them reasonable accommodation leave if their conditions necessitate longer periods of leave. Family leave is available to eligible workers who are employed by businesses that have 20 or more workers. It provides up to 12 weeks of leave to the workers so that they can bond with their new children. Altogether, these laws may allow some workers to take up to seven months off from work during and after their pregnancies.

The pregnancy disability leave law in California applies to companies that have five or more employees. To be eligible for this type of leave, workers must be disabled from childbirth, pregnancy, or a related condition. Pregnancy disability leave may be taken intermittently instead of all at one time. Women are considered to have a pregnancy-related disability if their doctors determine that their pregnancies prevent them from performing one or more of the essential functions of their jobs.

Under the law, employers in California are mandated to not discriminate against people because of their disabling conditions, including conditions that are related to pregnancy. To comply with the law, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to their employees. Taking additional leave when other types of leave have been exhausted may be a reasonable accommodation for pregnancy-related disabilities.

Both male and female employees who are eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks off from work to bond with new children under California's family leave law. To be eligible, workers must work for employers that have 20 or more employees. They must also have worked at least 1,250 hours for their employers during the previous 12 months and have been employed by their employers for a year or longer.

Workers who take different types of maternity leave have job protections. They are generally allowed to return to work once their leave is over in their same positions. While leave is allowed, employers are generally not required to pay their workers when they take leave. However, workers who suffer short-term disabilities because of their pregnancies may be eligible for short-term disability insurance from the state, which provides benefits ranging from $50 to $1,216 each week. Some workers may also be eligible to take up to six weeks of paid leave under California's paid family leave law. Workers may also use the accrued paid time off hours that they have earned.

As we have previously discussed, workers may also be eligible to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave off from work for pregnancy under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act or the California Family Rights Act. Workers who are eligible for FMLA leave must have worked at least 1,250 hours for their employers during the previous 12 months and have worked at their jobs for a minimum of one year. The employers must also be covered by the FMLA, which means that they must have 50 or more employees working within a 75-mile radius.

Potential Expansion of Paid Leave

The Los Angeles City Council has recently been considering a proposal to extend paid family leave to 18 weeks. Under this proposal, parents could take paid leave for up to 18 weeks and receive up to 100 percent of their wages.

Under the existing paid leave law, eligible parents are able to take up to six weeks of paid time from their jobs. However, they only receive from 60 to 70% of their regular wages. Many parents do not take paid leave from work under the law because they cannot afford to lose that much of their income. Since California also offers short-term pregnancy disability leave, workers are able to take up to 18 weeks off from work with partial pay.

The new law would mandate that employers allow their workers to take up to 18 weeks of paid leave off from work, and they would be required to make up the difference between state benefits and their employees' normal salaries. However, the maximum amount that employers would be required to pay their workers would be capped at the estimated annual cost of living for the area. In Los Angeles, that is currently estimated to be $65,000 for a parent and child.

Workers who work within the city limits would be eligible as long as they work for employers that withhold money from their paychecks for the state's disability leave program. In January, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a proposal to expand the state's paid disability leave from six weeks up to six months.

Protections Against Being Terminated for Exercising Your Rights to Paid Time off

If you take pregnancy disability leave, family leave, or reasonable accommodation leave, you are protected against being terminated from your job simply because you took leave. However, some employers may still terminate employees who take leave by trying to claim the reasons for the terminations were something other than the leave. People who believe that their jobs are at risk should document everything that their employers say to them. They should also get copies of their personnel files and save emails and text messages that are relevant. If they receive poor performance evaluations from their employers but have a history of positive performance evaluations, having the prior evaluations may help them to prove that their employers wrongfully discriminated against them because they exercised their rights to take leave from work.

Contact Steven M. Sweat, APC

If you have been terminated from your job because you took leave because of your pregnancy, you may have legal rights. It is important for you to consult with an experienced employment lawyer about your potential claim. Contact Steven M. Sweat, APC today at 866-966-5240 for a free consultation.

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