California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law

California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) law allows pregnant women who are “disabled” during their pregnancy to take up to four months of leave from work.  The term, disabled, is a bit misleading because it includes any disability related to the woman’s pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.

Further, even prior to taking time off, employer’s are also obligated to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees such as modifying work duties,  transferring the employee to a less strenuous position, or providing a modified work schedule.  An employer’s failure to accommodate the pregnant employee is only excusable where the employer can prove that the accommodation would be an undue burden.

To qualify for leave, the employee must be unable to perform one or more of her job functions because of the pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions such as morning sickness or prenatal care.  An employee generally must request pregnancy disability leave at least 30 days’ prior to the need for leave.  However, if circumstances do not permit advance notice, the employee only need give notice as soon as practicable.  In response, an employer is permitted to request medical documentation supporting the employee’s need for leave.  The certification simply must show the date of disability, the anticipated amount of leave needed, and an explanation as to why the employee cannot work.

After the leave is complete, the employer must return to the employee to the same or to comparable position. Pregnancy leave must be treated the same as all other temporary disabilities so that policies that apply to non-pregnancy-related temporary disabilities must also apply to leave taken under the PDL.  For example, pregnant employees continue to accrue seniority, have a right to participate in health, retirement, and disability plans, and any other benefits provided to employees.

In addition to leave under the PDL, California employees who work for larger employers (those who employ 50 or more employees) are entitled to an additional 12 weeks of leave under CFRA.  In total, a pregnant employee may be able to maximize her leave to allow for nearly 7 months of job protected leave.

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