Orange County Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer

Pregnancy is an incredibly exciting time in a woman’s life. For expectant mothers who are working, this exciting time can also bring anxiety and confusion with respect to their legal rights to maternity leave, to take time off or receive a leave of absence, request a reasonable accommodation, or be reinstated to their position when they return to work. Orange County employees and those throughout the State of California are afforded more protection when it comes to pregnancy rights than employees in most other States. This is because, in addition to rights provided under Federal law, California employment laws such as the California Pregnancy, Disability and Accommodation Leave Law (“PDL”) and the California Family Rights Act (often referred to as “CFRA”), are broader and allow for greater protections than Title VII and the Family and Medical Leave Act (often referred to as “FMLA”) which are sometimes more well-known.

 It is important for Orange County employees and California employees to understand their pregnancy rights and leave of absence rights, not just to be familiar with what they can expect by way of maternity leave, time off from work, wage replacement benefits and returning to work, but also because sometimes employers do not always share in the joy of an employee’s pregnancy and may engage in unlawful pregnancy discrimination, harassment or retaliation.  The Orange County Employment Attorneys at Ares Law Group have represented numerous pregnant employees who have suffered from unlawful employment actions based to their maternity leave, pregnancy or pregnancy related condition. 

Protected Leave

California pregnant employees may be entitled to time off other than what is traditionally referred to as maternity leave. Pregnant employees may also be entitled to time off as a result of severe morning sickness, prenatal and postnatal care, bed rest, gestational diabetes, pregnancy induced hypertension, preeclampsia, post-partum depression, loss or end of pregnancy and recovery from childbirth or loss or end of pregnancy. Sometimes these leaves of absence can be taken intermittently. California employees can be eligible for some of these protected leaves the day they start employment, such as under the PDL.  Others may have certain eligibility requirements related to how long the employee has worked for the employer.  It is possible for some Orange County employees and California employees to take up to seven (7) months of leave in certain circumstances.  It is important to note, most of these protected leaves are unpaid.  That means employers are not required to continue to pay an employee while they are on a protected leave of absence related to their pregnancy. 

Some employers with headquarters outside of California are not well versed in the rights afforded Orange County employees and California employees with respect to maternity leave or pregnancy leave under the PDL or CFRA.  Truth be told, the interplay between these various California and Federal pregnancy laws can be confusing even to a seasoned human resources professional.  That is why it is important to discuss your pregnancy leave rights with an experienced a leave of absence attorney or pregnancy discrimination attorney. 

Orange County Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer

Reasonable Accommodation

Pregnant employees may also be entitled to reasonable accommodations for conditions related to their pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition on the advice of the employee’s health care provider.  Reasonable accommodations can take various forms but at their core they are intended to enable the employee to continue working. Reasonable accommodations can include adjusting work duties or schedules, providing stools or chairs, additional break times or temporary transfers to a less strenuous position.  Pregnant employees who believe they are in need of a reasonable accommodation due to their pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition should discuss this with their health care professional.  Once potential reasonable accommodations have been identified, the pregnant employee should request the reasonable accommodation from their employer in writing. 

Wage Replacement Benefits During Pregnancy Protected Leaves

As noted above, while most protected leaves are not paid, all hope is not lost for Orange County employees and California employees.  An employee who is taking time off from work for maternity leave, due to pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition may be entitled to take advantage of certain wage replacement programs.  Orange County employees and California employees may be entitled to wage replacement benefits under California’s State Disability Insurance Program and Paid Family Leave law.  It is important to note, these laws do not afford any additional protected time off.  Rather, they are programs which enable an employee to receive some wage replacement pay during a protected pregnancy leave of absence. 

In addition to these California state programs, employees may be eligible for additional time off under their employer’s sick leave, vacation or paid time off policies.  Eligibility for some of these programs can vary depending on the reason for the leave, for example if it is due to a pregnancy related medical condition or to bond with a new baby (which can be through either birth or adoption).  Before a pregnant employee goes on leave, Orange County employers and California employers have obligations to notify them regarding their wage replacement rights.  If your employer does not notify you of your wage replacement rights, you should contact an Orange County pregnancy rights attorney to ensure you are taking advantage of all available wage replacement benefits. 

Reinstatement Rights

When an employee is ready to return to work after a maternity or pregnancy related leave, they often have reinstatement rights that provide they are to be returned to the same position they held prior to their leave, or a comparable position.  This does not mean an Orange County employee or California employee cannot be terminated while on leave or returned to a different position.  Pregnant employees are not entitled to any greater right than they would have had had they remained working and not taken any maternity or pregnancy leave.  That being said, an employer who terminates or refuses to reinstate a pregnant employee to their same position must have a lawful reason for doing so.  Some examples include if there has been a large layoff that would have impacted the employee if they were still working or if significant performance issues have come to light during the employee’s leave (i.e., evidence that the employee embezzled funds from the employer).  If an employee is not reinstated to their same position, they should speak with an Orange County employment attorney, Orange County pregnancy rights attorney, or an Orange County pregnancy discrimination attorney to understand their rights.

Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Based on Pregnancy

Both California laws and Federal laws prohibit discrimination, harassment and retaliation against a pregnant employee. Pregnancy discrimination can take a variety of forms such as a demotion, a removal of duties and responsibilities previously held, not assigning an employee to a desired projects for fear they will be distracted or not dependable due to their pregnancy, or even termination (firing or layoff) of employment. Unlawful harassment based on pregnancy might also be offensive comments regarding the employee’s pregnancy, comments suggesting the employee is not going to be dedicated to their job because of their pregnancy or children, or other comments concerning the employee’s need for time off or reasonable accommodation. If these comments are consistent enough that they form a pattern of conduct, they can create a hostile work environment based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition which equates to pregnancy harassment. Pregnancy retaliation often occurs when an employee exercises her right to maternity or a protected leave or requests a reasonable accommodation. After exercising this right, the employee may suffer adverse employment actions, such as those outlined above with respect to discrimination (i.e., demotion, layoff, firing or termination) which are based on the protected activity of requesting a leave of absence or reasonable accommodation. California laws and Federal laws prohibit pregnancy retaliation.

Pregnancy Discrimination Lawyer in Orange County

California and Federal pregnancy laws are many and confusing. It is difficult for a pregnant employee to try to navigate these leave, accommodation, and reinstatement rights on their own. Moreover, an Orange County pregnant employee who has been demoted, removed from a project, or terminated may feel distraught and confused over what has happened. Pregnant employees who find themselves in these difficult positions or have questions about their rights should consult an Orange County employment attorney, pregnancy rights attorney, leave of absence attorney, or pregnancy discrimination attorney, like those with Ares Law Group, to better understand their rights and options going forward. Ares Law Group offers free consultations related to pregnancy rights, maternity leave discrimination, leaves of absence, pregnancy discrimination, retaliation, and harassment, as well as other laws impacting California employees and Orange County employees.