Does California Provide Maternity Leave?

California law provides two kinds of maternity leave. The first is under the California Pregnancy Disability Leave law (PDL), and the second is under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), often called “bonding” leave. Many employers confuse the two or treat them as the same.  Both types, however, provide different benefits and have different requirements.

1. PREGNANCY DISABILITY LEAVE

PDL requires employers with 5 or more employees to provide up to four months of disability leave to women who have a pregnancy disability.

If you work for a small employer with less than 5 employees, your employer does not have to provide pregnancy disability leave.

If your employer provides more than four months of leave for other disabilities, your employer needs to provide the same for a pregnancy disability.

A pregnancy disability means that you are actually disabled by your pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. This includes needing time off for:

  • Prenatal care
  • Severe morning sickness
  • Doctor-ordered bed rest
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Preeclampsia
  • Childbirth
  • Recovery from childbirth or pregnancy loss
  • Postpartum depression 
  • Any other medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth

You certainly don’t have to be confined to your bed. Your doctor just needs to determine that you are unable to perform at least one essential function of your job without undue risk to yourself, your pregnancy, or others.

If you’re pregnant, make sure your doctor understands what your work duties involve so that your doctor can determine whether it is safe for you to continue performing those duties.

2. CALIFORNIA FAMILY RIGHTS ACT LEAVE

Apart from PDL, you may be entitled to an additional 12 weeks of leave under CFRA to bond with the baby, to bond with an adopted child, or to care for yourself, a parent, a spouse or a child with a serious health condition.

CFRA has stricter requirements than pregnancy disability leave and usually doesn’t apply to small businesses.  To be entitled to CFRA leave, your employer must conduct business in California and have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of your worksite.  You also must have worked for the employer at least one year and worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months before the first date of leave.

If you work for a small business or worked on average less than 25 hours a week during the past year, you likely aren’t entitled to CFRA leave.  You should nevertheless consult an attorney if your employer denies you CFRA leave because employers sometimes hide the true size of their business by, among other things, operating under a DBA name.

This is only a brief discussion on pregnancy disability and bonding leave under California law. If you have been denied leave or treated unfairly due to your pregnancy, consult an attorney. Should you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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