Pregnancy Discrimination Still Violates California Labor Law
Ashley returned to work from maternity leave to find that she had been demoted. “I worked at this company for six years, the first four of which I was part time,” says Ashley. “It was a struggle to get full-time status, but with it came job security and benefits so I was thrilled to be in this position, especially with my third child on the way.” Ashley has been “reclassified” back to part time, which means that she loses her medical benefits and of course, less hours. “My full-time job has been filled by someone who barely has any training, but she is young and doesn’t have any kids,” says Ashley. “I am certain that the company looks at me as a liability now that I had my third child and this is so wrong.”
If Ashley is right in assuming she lost her full-time position because she was discriminated against for being a mother, she should probably talk to an employment attorney.
It gets worse.
On the very last day Suzanne worked before taking maternity leave, she was fired! “I was told by HR that I was approved for Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) for 12 weeks but I won’t be eligible for short-term disability benefits,” says Suzanne, who worked at this company for more than 12 months and therefore qualifies for FMLA. “And on top of that, I want to file a California wrongful termination claim against my employer.”
Suzanne has called an attorney who specializes in Employment Law. Even in a right to work state, if there is any appearance of discrimination (i.e., firing you without cause just before you go on maternity leave and therefore NOT having to pay you for sick leave or vacation time), you may be protected under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Angela was laid off two weeks before her son was born. “My boss told me that they had to downsize but I found out from a co-worker that just a week after I was terminated that a young man took my place,” she says. “Although he didn’t come right out and say so, I think my former employer considers women with children as liabilities. And that is infuriating.”
Fortunately for these women, California has the strongest parental leave programs and protections in the US. The California “at will” employment policy does not allow employee termination for time off for family leave or maternity leave. As well, Suzanne, Angela and Ashley are pro-active: they are all taking steps to file a California labor lawsuit against their employer.
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act explicitly prohibits employers from harassing, demoting, terminating or otherwise discriminating against any employee for becoming pregnant, or for requesting or taking pregnancy leave. The Act applies to all employers that regularly employed five or more full-time employees in the preceding year.
The California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (“PDLL”) is part of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, and requires employers who employ 5 or more employees to provide employees who are disabled by their pregnancy a reasonable period of leave, not to exceed four months. An employee who is disabled by her pregnancy and entitled to PDLL leave may take the leave all at once or in increments. An employer is not required to pay wages to an employee taking PDLL leave, unless it has a policy of continuing the payment of wages for other types of temporary disability leaves.