You may be entitled under law to take up to seven months unpaid leave—without being terminated from your job—by combining pregnancy leave with leave to bond with your newborn child. In most cases, your employer must reinstate you to the same or comparable position after your leave, including the same pay, benefits and working conditions.
In addition, , beginning January 1, 2012, your employer must continue health care benefits for pregnant workers during pregnancy disability leave.
It is illegal for a covered employer to interfere with your right to take a leave for pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions, and/or to bond with your newborn child. Your employer may not harass you for taking such a leave, deny a valid leave request, or refuse to hire or promote you because you will take or have taken a leave. It is also illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for requesting a leave or for complaining about a violation of these laws.
Your employer may not fire you, force you to quit, or force you to take a leave because you are pregnant. Also, your employer may not take away seniority or accrued retirement benefits because of maternity leave; or force you to take a pregnancy leave if you are able to work. You are entitled to reasonable accommodations related to your pregnancy. Further, after returning from leave, your employer must provide lactation accommodations for nursing mothers.2. Pregnant women may be entitled to family/medical leave and pregnancy disability leave.
You are eligible for family/medical leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the state California Family Rights Act (CFRA) if all of the following are true:
Under the family/medical leave laws, you may take a leave of up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period for the birth of your child, or the placement of a child with you for adoption or foster care.
(If you qualify for a family/medical leave, you are also entitled to take time off for your own serious health condition or to care for a family member with a serious health condition. See the section “Other Publications Regarding Family/Medical Leave” in this Fact Sheet if you would like further information about the right to take a leave for those reasons.)
Even if you are not eligible for family/medical leave, you still are entitled to take unpaid pregnancy disability leave (PDL) if:
Eligibility for pregnancy disability leave does not depend on how long you have worked for your employer nor on the number of hours you have worked.
Generally, health care providers will certify a pregnancy disability leave of up to 10 weeks for a normal pregnancy—4 weeks before childbirth and 6 weeks after a vaginal delivery, or 8 weeks after delivery by cesarean section. However, you may take up to 4 months of pregnancy disability leave for complications, severe morning sickness, or other disabilities related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. The specific duration of disability leave that you will be eligible for must be determined by your health care provider. (See Section 12 below for information regarding disability payments during such leave.)
If you are disabled by pregnancy for more than 4 months before your baby is born and therefore need more than 4 months of pregnancy disability leave, your employer may—but is not required to—allow you to use additional leave provided by the California family/medical leave law (CFRA) for the rest of your pregnancy.
Pregnant employees who are also eligible for a family/medical leave may take both a pregnancy disability leave (PDL) for the time they are disabled and a CFRA leave to care for and bond with their child. To qualify for a CFRA leave for the birth of your child that immediately follows a leave for pregnancy disability, you need to have worked 1,250 hours prior to the first day of your pregnancy disability leave, not prior to the first day of your CFRA bonding leave (and meet the other requirements in Section 2).
Even if you use some CFRA leave time before the birth of a child to extend a 4-month pregnancy disability leave, your employer must allow you to use any remaining CFRA leave you may have to care for your new child after he or she is born.3. Any new parent may take a leave of absence.
You do not have to be the mother of a new child to take parental leave. Any employee who qualifies for family/medical leave (see Section 2 above) may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of the employee’s child or for the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care. This leave must be taken within one year of the birth, adoption or foster care placement of the child.
Where both parents have the same employer, the employer is required to grant only a total of 12 weeks of leave in connection with the birth or placement of a new child. The parents may divide the 12 weeks between them in any manner. After dividing a family/medical leave, each of the parent/employees has the right under CFRA to take additional leave for their own serious health condition or to care for an ill family member until he or she has used a total of 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period.4. Is your employer required to continue health benefits during a leave?
Beginning January 1, 2012, employers must continue to pay for health care benefits for employees who take pregnancy disability leaves. In addition, under the family/medical leave laws (see Section 1 above), your employer must continue your health care benefits for at least the first 12 weeks of your unpaid leave. Continuation of health care benefits includes any benefits your employer provides for your family members or dependents.5. Does your employer have to accommodate a request for an intermittent or reduced work schedule?
Pregnancy disability leave does not have to be used in a single, large block of time, but may be taken in short increments as needed. You are “disabled” under the law and may take leave if, for example, you are suffering from severe morning sickness or need to take off time for prenatal care.
You may also take intermittent leave after the birth or placement of your child if you do not want to take all of your leave at once. You may use your CFRA bonding leave in two-week blocks of time, provided that all of your bonding leave is taken in the first year after the birth or placement of your child. However, your employer must grant leaves of at least one day but less than two weeks duration only on two occasions during that time.
If you and your employer agree, you may be able to take Family/Medical Leave on an intermittent or part-time schedule. If you qualify for family/medical leave and take intermittent leave or a reduced work schedule for pregnancy or for the birth or placement of your child, your employer can temporarily transfer you to an alternative position with equivalent pay and benefits if that position better accommodates your need for intermittent leave. Once you no longer need a reduced schedule, your employer must reinstate you to the same or equivalent position that you held before taking intermittent leave.6. Is your employer required to grant your request for a transfer, duty restriction, or other reasonable accommodation?
Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy or childbirth-related conditions, on the advice of an employee’s health care provider. For example, a pregnant woman may be entitled to use of a stool, frequent bathroom breaks, or modified job duties. In addition, if your doctor advises you to transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position or to be restricted to less strenuous or hazardous duties, your employer must grant your request for a temporary transfer or duty restriction if that change can be reasonably accommodated.
For example, if your doctor finds that a restriction against lifting is medically advisable, your employer cannot force you to take pregnancy leave if, instead, you can be restricted to less strenuous or hazardous duties or transferred to a less strenuous position. Your employer is not required under these circumstances, however, to create additional employment, discharge another employee, transfer another employee with more seniority, or promote you to a job for which you are not qualified.7. What are your employer’s obligations in notifying you of your leave rights?
Employers with 5 or more employees must do the following:
Employers with 50 or more employees must also do the following:
If you have not been notified of your rights to pregnancy disability or family/medical leave and you think your employer is covered by these laws, ask your employer for information about your rights.8. Under what terms do you take and return from leave?
If your employer has at least 5 but less than 50 employees and you take a pregnancy disability leave:
If your employer has 50 or more employees and you take a pregnancy disability leave and/or a family/medical leave:
You must give your employer notice 30 days before taking a pregnancy disability leave or a parental leave, or before a transfer is to begin, if the need for the leave or transfer is foreseeable because of pregnancy, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. If you do not know approximately when the leave will begin (when the timing of the adoption or approximate due date for baby is unknown, for example), you must give notice as soon as you are able. If the need for leave is not foreseeable (such as in the case of a medical emergency), you must give notice as soon as possible, normally within one or two days of learning of the need for leave.
The notice you give your employer, whether written or spoken, must be sufficient to make your employer aware that you need leave for pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, or for the birth, placement or adoption of a child. You should notify your employer in writing of your need for a family/medical leave, and make sure to have documentation of your employers’ response.10. What information may your employer request about your leave?
For a pregnancy disability leave, your employer may require medical certification that you are unable to work due to pregnancy. In the case of a transfer or duty restriction, your employer may require certification that it is medically advisable for you to be transferred to a less strenuous or hazardous position, or restricted to less strenuous or hazardous duties.
Your employer may require you to obtain a “fitness for duty” certification from your health care provider only if your employer requires this kind of certification from employees returning from leaves for disabilities unrelated to pregnancy.
If you qualify for family/medical leave, your employer may require periodic reports about your status and intent to return to work. If you fail to return from leave, your employer may recover from you the cost of continuing your health care benefits during your leave, unless the reason you cannot return is beyond your control. Choosing to stay home to care for a well, newborn child after the employee’s leave entitlement has expired is not a reason beyond the employee’s control.
Be sure that you understand your employer’s rules for leave before you take leave. Ask your employer for a written description of your rights and responsibilities for pregnancy leave and parental leave.11. What information should medical certification contain?
Generally, your employer may require a certification of your need for leave, transfer or reasonable accommodation due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.
A certification for a pregnancy disability leave should contain:
Certification for a reasonable accommodation or transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position should contain:
Your employer cannot ask you or your doctor for more than this basic information. If your certification contains this basic information, your employer must accept it as sufficient. Your employer must keep any medical information provided in a certification confidential.12. How do pregnancy and family/medical leave relate to other kinds of leave?
Both pregnancy disability leave and family/medical leave are unpaid leaves. However, you may be able to use other forms of paid time off during your pregnancy and/or parental leave.
When you are disabled because of pregnancy, your employer must treat you the same as other workers with temporary disabilities unrelated to pregnancy. If, for example, your employer offers paid short-term disability leave for conditions requiring bed rest, your employer must also give you paid short-term disability leave if you are unable to work due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions requiring bed rest. Check your benefits to see what your employer provides.
You may also qualify for State Disability Insurance payments during your leave if you participate in the program and your health care provider certifies that you are disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition and unable to work. You should be entitled to receive disability payments for the entire duration of your disability leave, before and/or after delivery, as long as the leave is medically necessary. For more information, contact the Employment Development Department (www.edd.ca.gov or 1-800-480-3287).
Paid Family Leave entitles employees who participate in the State Disability Insurance (SDI)system to receive a maximum of six weeks of partial pay each year when they take off work to bond with a newborn, newly adopted or newly placed foster child. Mothers who are receiving SDI benefits for pregnancy disability will automatically receive a claim form for Paid Family Leave benefits. Both mothers and fathers, including same-sex parents, can apply for Paid Family Leave benefits anytime within the first year of the child’s life or placement in the home.
An employee may receive Paid Family Leave benefits while taking unpaid job-protected family/medical leave. However, employees who are not eligible for job-protected family/medical leave may still be elgible to receive Paid Family Leave benefits. All employees who pay into SDI are eligible for Paid Family Leave to bond with a new child, regardless of the size of the employer or length of employment. For more information about Paid Family Leave, see our Fact Sheet Paid Family Leave Benefits or contact the Employment Development Department at 1-877-BE-THERE.
Either you or your employer may choose to apply your accrued sick leave during any unpaid leave you take for pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. You may also choose to use your paid vacation or personal time during a pregnancy disability leave, but your employer may not require you to do so against your will.
The rules for using paid time off during a leave to bond with your new child are different than those for pregnancy. For example, you may use your accrued sick leave during your bonding leave only if you and your employer mutually agree to it. Either you or your employer may choose to apply your vacation, personal time, or paid parental leave during a bonding leave.Compensatory (“Comp”) Time
Your employer may not require you to use accrued compensatory time off during any of your leave.13. Where can you get help regarding your family/medical leave rights?
For information about the application of family and medical leave rights to your particular situation, contact our Work & Family Project.
If you think your employer has violated family/medical leave laws, you can file a complaint with your local office of the United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division no later than two years after the earliest discriminatory act or with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing no later than one year after the first discriminatory act.
If you sue your employer for violating family/medical leave laws, the court may reinstate you to your job and award you wages you should have been paid or a promotion you should have received, as well as reimbursement for legal costs.
Time limits apply. You should take action immediately if you think your rights have been violated.14. Other publications regarding family/medical leave
The Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center has produced the publications listed below to educate workers about their rights relating to family/medical leave. To request any of these publications or to get information regarding your specific legal rights, please contact our Work & Family Project or view the following fact sheets: