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Pregnant Workers' Protection in California Employment Law

Updated: Jun 21, 2021

Find A Labor Law Attorney for Pregnancy Discrimination Claims

Employers in California cannot discriminate nor retaliate against pregnant employees. If you have been harassed, discriminated against, or retaliated against directly caused by your pregnancy, consult a California Employment Law Attorney to help you file claims.

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Pregnancy or maternity discrimination is characterized by employers making employment decisions directly related to an employee's pregnancy. The following are examples:


There are numerous cases of blatant pregnancy discrimination, such as when a boss fires a pregnant employee because he believes she would be unable to do her duties satisfactorily. There are, however, some less obvious examples.

Even if an employer has good intentions, such as being worried about a pregnant employee's safety on the job, discriminating against or firing a pregnant employee because of her well-being is illegal.

Even if a job demands the employee lift heavy things or work with harmful chemicals, the employee's and her unborn baby's safety is ultimately up to her and her physician, not her boss or employer.

Firing an employee for discriminatory purposes is also a Wrongful Termination Claim. To know the specific claims and damages you might want to consider, consult an Employment Law Attorney in California.


Harassment is defined as a pattern of insulting comments, such as uninvited and offensive jokes, insults, physical assaults or threats, and intimidation, that interferes with a pregnant employee's or new mother's work performance and creates a hostile work environment.

A supervisor, coworker, business partner, or even clients or customers can engage in this sort of harassment. For example, if a boss makes unpleasant comments to an employee about how her pregnancy status is hurting her work performance in the hopes that she will quit or transfer to another position, this is considered harassment.

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Refusal to Hire.

An employer cannot refuse to recruit a fresh candidate because she is pregnant or may become pregnant in the future. However, many companies try to rationalize this by claiming that they only want to promote someone who will be able to continue working uninterrupted.

The employer may wish to avoid what it believes will be a negative economic impact or a disruption in production, but this is prohibited. An employer cannot make assumptions about how a particular employee will perform during her pregnancy or after the birth of her child based on bias or stereotypes.

Refusal to Accommodate.

If an employee has pregnancy-related health issues, she must be treated and accommodated in the same way as other employees with medical illnesses are.

The mere fact that you are pregnant does not automatically entitle you to accommodations; nonetheless, the employer may require a medical certificate to justify accommodations.

Changing a pregnant worker's work schedule if she has persistent morning sickness or providing a more comfortable chair at her desk are two examples. Employees will almost certainly be required to present a physician's letter to justify their medical issues in these situations.

Pregnancy can also be considered a temporary disability, and thus should be qualified of these accommodations. Consult your California Labor Lawyer to help steer you in the right legal direction.

Scolding or Firing for Performing Maternal Duties.

According to the Affordable Care Act, an employee who is a new mother must be able to pump breast milk at work in a safe and private location other than a bathroom. She must also be allowed sufficient time off during her working hours to do so.

If a company has fewer than 50 employees and can demonstrate that giving breaks or a private place would cause the company "undue hardship," it may not be obligated to provide this option to pregnant employees.

Forcing to Take Leave, Reassignment, and Refusal to Promote.

It is prohibited for an employer to believe that a pregnant employee should take time off after giving birth or that the pregnant employee should be reassigned to a less demanding role. Employees must be permitted to execute their job obligations as long as they are capable of doing so.

Again, even if an employer believes they are looking out for their employee's best interests, employment decisions cannot be made based on the assumption that they are not willing or capable of doing the job's tasks.

An employer cannot, for example, refuse to promote an employee who has recently given birth because the employer believes she will be less committed to her new job obligations.

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Not Allowing a Medical Leave.

An employer is required under the PDA to allow an employee who has physical restrictions due to her recent pregnancy to take leave on the same terms and conditions as other employees with a comparable ability or inability to work.

Furthermore, an employer must keep a pregnant employee's employment available for the same amount of time as an employee on sick or temporary disability leave.

An employer is required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to allow a pregnant employee to return to her position or one that is comparable in terms of compensation, benefits, and other employment terms and conditions.

Retaliation for Filing a Discrimination Claim.

The EEOC has determined that retaliation is the most common type of discrimination against pregnant employees in recent years. But it's also widespread in the private sector since retaliation is a natural reaction for those who believe they've been wronged.

Employers who demote, terminate, harass, and otherwise "retaliate" against an expecting worker for filing a pregnancy discrimination claim, resisting pregnancy discrimination, or partaking in a pregnancy discrimination proceeding violate the law.

A pregnant employee, for example, was deemed to be unable to perform her work and was consequently demoted. In addition, she was unlawfully dismissed after threatening to file a claim with the EEOC because her employer claimed she took monies from the company when she didn't.

  • Although pregnancy discrimination can be difficult to prove at times, it's critical to keep track of your conversations with your employer and coworkers, as well as the measures taken against you. If you register a complaint with your company or bring legal action, you'll need this information.

  • You may need to show that you were treated differently than coworkers with comparable qualifications and performance records to claim that you were discriminated against at work.

Consult an Employment Attorney in California to help you figure out your case.

What Compensations Can I Expect After a Successful Claim?

If you and your California Labor Lawyer are successful, you might be qualified to receive the following:

  • Lost Wages

  • Emotional Distress Damages

  • Punitive Damages

  • Attorney's Fees

What's the Statute of Limitations for Pregnancy Discrimination Claims in California?

You have two (2) years to file an Employment Discrimination Claim in California. Consult a Labor Lawyer before then to make sure you file the claim within the allowed time frame.

Find A Pregnancy Discrimination Attorney in California can help you find a Contingency Lawyer for your Employment Claims in California. No win, no fees! Complete our submission form for a free case review.


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