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Pregnancy Penalty Violates California Labor Law

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Sacramento, CA When Darlene was pregnant, her boss went out of his way to make her job uncomfortable, to say the least. Darlene says she was harassed, which is a violation of the California labor law, pregnant or not. But subjecting a pregnant woman to a hostile work environment is borderline criminal.

"When I told my boss that I was pregnant a few years ago, he began making comments that his wife was more experienced in HR and could do a better job than me," says Darlene (not her real name). "He said, 'Take as long as you want on your maternity leave because we don't need you back.' When I did take mat leave, he tried to take my position away and offer me part time work without benefits. When I objected, he said okay, I could have my job back. But when I returned, they took away all of my duties except payroll."

Darlene knew her rights, so she was able to get her job back after four months on maternity leave. By threatening not to reinstate Darlene after she returned, then offering part-time without benefits, and finally taking her duties away, at least three California labor laws were potentially violated as per the California labor code:
(d) Employee Status

The employee shall retain employee status during the period of the pregnancy disability leave. The leave shall not constitute a break in service for purposes of longevity and/or seniority under any collective bargaining agreement or under any employee benefit plan. Benefits must be resumed upon the employee's reinstatement in the same manner and at the same levels as provided when the leave began, without any new qualification period, physical exam, et cetera or other qualifying provisions.
"After he knowingly took away my duties, my boss would have meetings with my co-workers and me, basically to humiliate me," says Darlene. "He would ask questions in front of everyone, like, 'What do you do all day at work?' and 'What do you work on for eight hours?' In other words, he was looking for a way to terminate me without cause."

Unfortunately, Darlene's boss succeeded in ousting her, but only temporarily, because Darlene has filed a lawsuit against him and the company. "Because of the stress I had to take a leave of absence, but they terminated me within a few days," she says.

Adding insult to injury, Darlene says she just received a letter from the company. "Now they want to sue me for phone charges on a company cell phone they gave me, which I gave back when I was fired. Do they have the right to do this to me?"

That's another question Darlene's attorney can answer. As it stands now, she is potentially entitled to the following remedies that are available for violation of the pregnancy disability leave law:

- Back pay
- Reinstatement or front pay
- Injunctive relief
- Reasonable attorney fees and court costs
- Compensatory damages for pain and suffering
- Punitive damages

More from the California Labor Code as it pertains to Darlene:
§7291.5 Responsibilities of Employers

Discrimination by employers because of pregnancy constitutes discrimination because of sex under Government Code sections 12926…
(a) Employer Obligations

Except as excused by a permissible defense, it is unlawful for any employer, because of pregnancy of an employee or applicant, to:

(6) discriminate against the applicant or employee in terms, conditions or privileges of employment, except for non-Title VII employers, as set forth at section 7291.11, subdivision (a)(1)(A), below;

- Harass the applicant or employee because of pregnancy
- An employee who exercises her right to take a pregnancy disability 13 leave is guaranteed a right to return to the same position, or, if excused by section 7291.9, subdivisions (c)(1)(A) or (c)(1)(B), to a comparable position, and shall provide the guarantee in writing upon request of the employee. It is an unlawful employment practice for any employer, after granting a requested pregnancy disability leave or transfer, to refuse to honor its guarantee of reinstatement unless the refusal is justified by the defenses below in subdivisions (c)(1) and (c)(2). If the employee takes intermittent leave or a reduced work schedule, only one written guarantee of reinstatement is required.

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