Understanding Pregnancy Disability Leave

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives approximately 7,000 pregnancy discrimination claims yearly. Fortunately, California is at the forefront of protecting employees’ rights in general and pregnant women’s rights and welfare specifically.

The Golden State’s Pregnancy Discrimination Leave (PDL) policy allows up to four months of leave for women who are facing difficulties associated with pregnancy or childbirth. After that, 12 additional weeks under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) may be available if both the employer and employee meet the law’s requirements.

If you feel that you have been illegally denied your rights as an employee under PDL, and you’re in the Stockton, Costa Mesa, or Temecula regions, contact Robinson Bradford LLP. Our attorneys are well versed in all of California’s leave laws and workplace protections, and we will help you fully exercise your rights for what you are legally entitled to.

What Is Pregnancy
Disability Leave?

Pregnancy Disability Leave, or PDL, is a California program enabling women to take four months of leave when they face complications from pregnancy or childbirth. Employers with five or more employees are legally responsible for administering the program. 

A pregnancy disability is a physical or mental condition that prevents you from performing the essential duties of your job. Generally, the disabling condition must be certified by a physician. Note, however, that pregnancy itself is not considered a disability under California law.

Since the PDL allows for up to “four months” of leave, employers initially assumed that to mean 16 weeks, but the law was clarified by the state to mean 17 and 1/3 weeks of leave (52 weeks divided by 3). The leave can be taken all at once or intermittently.

Who Qualifies for PDL?

If you work for an employer with five or more employees, you are entitled to PDL. Unlike other leave laws, there is no length-of-service requirement to be eligible. You can take PDL once each year if you suffer a pregnancy disability as described next.

The conditions that qualify for PDL include, but are not limited to, severe morning sickness, bed rest, pregnancy-induced hypertension, postpartum depression, loss or end of pregnancy, prenatal or postnatal care, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, childbirth, and recovery from childbirth. Miscarriages and pregnancy terminations are also covered under the PDL.

Workplace Rights and Benefits Continue Under the PDL

If you receive health insurance at your place of employment and your employer pays for it, your employer is obligated to continue providing that benefit while you are on PDL. Your employer cannot require you to use vacation or other paid time off leave as part of your PDL, but they can require you to use your accumulated sick days.

In addition, your seniority at work will continue to accrue while on leave. Your employer is also obligated to return you to your previous or comparable position when your leave is over.

Reasonable Accommodations

If your disability does not qualify for full leave, it may qualify for a reasonable accommodation at work if your physician deems such accommodation as “medically advisable.” The standard here is that the woman is “affected” but not “disabled” by the pregnancy.

Unlike reasonable accommodations under legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the employer cannot argue the accommodation poses an “undue hardship.” The employer is required, through an interactive process with the employee, to provide an accommodation to suit the pregnant employee’s medical or physical limitations. 

Accommodations might include assignment to less strenuous duties, physical modifications to the employee’s workspace, or longer or more frequent break periods.

Baby Bonding

The PDL does not exist for purposes of baby bonding, and it does not allow your spouse or partner to use the benefits. Only those who qualify under the definitions of pregnancy disability listed above can avail themselves of the PDL.

All employees, including the mother, however, are entitled to bonding leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the federal Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA), but for these programs, there are length-of-service requirements.

Both the CFRA and the FMLA require that you have worked for the same employer for at least 1,250 hours in the preceding 12 months to qualify. (The months do not need to be contiguous if the job is seasonal or otherwise interrupted for business purposes.) For the FMLA, your company must employ 50 or more persons within a 75-mile radius to qualify. For the CFRA, the employer must have at least five employees on the payroll.

Both parents can qualify under either program, and a bonding leave of up to 12 weeks can be taken under either program or both programs simultaneously. PDL and CFRA cannot run simultaneously, however, though you can take your 12 weeks for bonding following the conclusion of PDL. You cannot stack CFRA and FMLA on top of one another for 24 weeks of leave.

Turn to Us at Bradford Robinson LLP for Help

Not all employers are fully conversant with California’s leave and disability laws, and they may react accordingly, maybe even denying your request for PDL. But if they have five or more employees on the payroll, they are obliged to provide Pregnancy Disability Leave.

If you run into any PDL roadblocks, before, during, or after your leave, contact us at Robinson Bradford LLP. We will listen to your story and help you exercise your rights under California law. We proudly serve clients in and around Stockton, Temecula, and Costa Mesa, and all surrounding communities.


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