Pregnancy can be an exciting and terrifying time that can affect various areas of an individual's life, especially regarding income and employment. As a pregnant employee in California, understanding your employee rights under state and federal law is crucial to safeguarding your economic security and protecting the health of yourself and your unborn child.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a new law that requires eligible employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. It’s vital for California workers affected by pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions to understand their rights under state and federal law, as this can help protect against discrimination and related forms of workplace misconduct in the Golden State.

Keep reading to learn more about the PWFA and how it can affect pregnancy discrimination in California employment.

What Constitutes Pregnancy Discrimination in California?

Under the EEOC, pregnancy discrimination occurs when an employer treats a pregnant employee unfavorably because of their pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition. Put simply, the EEOC upholds that pregnant employees have the right to be treated the same as other employees in terms of hiring, promotions, and benefits.

Some common examples of pregnancy discrimination in California workplaces include:

  • Refusing to hire pregnant employees
  • Refusing to promote pregnant employees
  • Denying pregnant employees the same benefits available to other employees
  • Forcing pregnant employees to take leave when they are still able to work

What Is Covered by the PWFA?

The Pregnancy Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is codified in 42 USC Ch. 21G. Enacted in 2023, the PWFA applies to employers with at least 15 employees. It requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers may include things like providing more frequent breaks, allowing the employee to sit or stand as needed, or modifying their work schedule. Employers must provide these accommodations unless it would cause an undue hardship on the business.

Some common examples of reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers include accommodations for:

  • Physical limitations – Examples include lifting restrictions or the need to use the restroom frequently
  • Medical needs related to pregnancy – Examples include flexible time off for doctor’s appointments, more frequent breaks, or permission to remain seated during job duties

What Does the PWFA Prohibit?

Under the PWFA, covered California employers are prohibited from:

  • Requiring employees to accept accommodations without first discussing it with their employer;
  • Denying a job or other employment opportunities to a qualified employee or applicant based on their need for reasonable accommodations;
  • Requiring an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided that would let the employee keep working;
  • Retaliating against an individual for reporting or opposing unlawful discrimination under the PWFA or participating in a PWFA proceeding, such as an investigation; and
  • Interfering with any worker’s rights under the PWFA.

Additional Protections for Pregnant Workers in CA

In addition to the PWFA, pregnant employees are also protected by the following laws:

  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 – Enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor, the FMLA provides covered employees with unpaid, job-protected leave in California for certain family and medical reasons.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – The ADA was enacted in 1990 to protect U.S. employees with disabilities. It requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations so long as the requested accommodation doesn’t impose an undue burden on the company as a whole. While pregnancy in itself isn’t considered a standalone disability under the ADA, certain pregnancy-related conditions are. It’s important to consult with an experienced employment lawyer to understand the legal protections available to you.
  • The PUMP Act – The “Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act” or PUMP Act was enacted by the U.S. Department of Labor to broaden workplace protections for employees who are breastfeeding.

Trusted Monterey County Employment Lawyer

Our California employment lawyer has over 25 years of experience representing wronged workers throughout Monterey County. From religious discrimination to retaliation to whistleblower claims, our seasoned attorney has a comprehensive knowledge of state and federal employment laws in California to guide your steps with wisdom and integrity. Contact us online to consult with our skilled employee rights lawyer in Monterey County.

If you’ve been mistreated at work, securing trusted representation is crucial to protect your financial health. Call (888) 796-4010 to schedule a consultation.

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