Understanding your rights in the workplace is crucial, especially when it comes to significant life events such as pregnancy. If you’re expecting a child, you might have concerns about job security and whether your employer can legally terminate your employment during this time. The protections and laws surrounding pregnancy and employment are designed to prevent discrimination, but they do have certain limitations.
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California Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL)
California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) guarantees up to four months of job-protected leave for employees who are disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. This law applies to any California business with five or more employees, meaning it provides protections for those working at smaller companies that are not covered under federal laws like the PDA or FMLA.
California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
In addition to PDL, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child, adoption, or foster care placement. This is on top of the four months provided by PDL and goes into effect once the pregnancy disability has ended, which can total up to nearly seven months of leave combined, depending on the circumstances.
Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)
The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) works to protect pregnant employees from discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Under FEHA, employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, such as modifying work duties or providing more frequent breaks.
Paid Family Leave (PFL)
An essential element of California’s protective stance for pregnant employees is Paid Family Leave, which offers partial wage replacement for up to eight weeks for those who take time off to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child.
By getting familiar with these state-specific regulations, employees in California can fully comprehend their rights and employers can understand their obligations, ensuring that pregnant employees receive fair treatment and the support they need during this significant time.
When Could a Pregnant Employee Be Fired?
The Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyers explain that although there are many laws that protect pregnant workers, there are situations where an employer might lawfully terminate a pregnant employee. Those exceptions primarily hinge on circumstances unrelated to the pregnancy itself.
- Performance and Conduct: An employer can fire a pregnant employee for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons. These can include poor job performance, violating company policy, redundancy, or serious misconduct. However, the reasons must be well-documented and consistent with the treatment of non-pregnant employees.
- Economic Downturn or Business Closure: In cases of broad layoffs due to economic downturn, reorganization, or business closure, pregnant employees are not automatically protected from losing their jobs. However, an employer must ensure that pregnancy is not a factor in the decision-making process for layoffs.
- Probation and At-Will Employment: Many jobs in the United States are considered “at-will,” which means an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason (except an illegal one) or no reason, and the employee can quit at any time. Still, even at-will employees are protected under the PDA and cannot be fired for reasons related to pregnancy or childbirth.
How to Know if You’ve Been Wrongfully Terminated
If you believe you’ve been fired because you are pregnant, you can take a few steps to assess whether your termination was lawful or potentially a case of discrimination:
- Review Company Policy: Look at your employee handbook or company policies regarding termination and discrimination. It’s possible that some rules or policies were not followed during your termination process.
- Document Everything: Keep records of any relevant communication and documents. This includes performance reviews, emails, and notes from meetings.
- Compare Treatment: Consider whether non-pregnant employees with similar performance levels or circumstances have been treated differently.
- Seek Legal Advice: If you suspect that you’ve been wrongfully terminated, it may be beneficial to consult with an attorney who specializes in employment law. They can provide guidance based on your specific situation and help you determine the best course of action.
Being pregnant should not be a barrier to fair treatment in the workplace. Understanding your rights is the first step in ensuring that you are protected. If you believe you have been discriminated against, speaking up is essential, not just for your own justice but to help ensure fair treatment for other pregnant employees in the future. Your situation can contribute to a working environment that respects and upholds the rights of all employees, regardless of their pregnancy status.