You are expecting your first child, and as the due date draws near, you can’t help but feel mixed emotions. While you are excited about being able to soon hold your bundle of joy, you feel overwhelmed by all of the steps you have to take in preparation for their arrival. Applying for maternity leave is one of them.
Unfortunately, you may discover that your employer has denied your maternity leave, but you have rights. Here’s a rundown on everything you need to know about maternity leave laws in California, and what to do if your maternity leave is denied.
Maternity Leave Laws in California
Maternity leave laws in California, which are codified in California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (Cal. Gov’t Code § 12945), or PDLL, allows an employee up to 4 months of leave when she is disabled by (1) pregnancy, (2) childbirth or a (3) related medical condition. “Related medical condition” is any medically recognized physical or mental condition related to pregnancy, childbirth, or recovery from pregnancy or childbirth, including lactation-related medical conditions. The PDLL makes it unlawful to refuse to grant pregnancy disability leave to a disabled employee or to retaliate against her for taking or attempting to take pregnancy leave.
An employee is disabled by pregnancy if she is unable to perform one or more of the essential functions of her job or is unable to perform those functions without undue risk to herself, to the successful completion of her pregnancy, or to other persons. An employee is also deemed disabled by pregnancy if she is suffering from “severe morning sickness” or needs to take time off for prenatal or postnatal care, bed rest, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia, postpartum depression, childbirth, loss or end of pregnancy, or recovery from childbirth.
In addition to the 4 months of pregnancy disability leave under the PDLL, employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of leave to bond with their newborn child under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which does not start until after the employee is no longer disabled by the pregnancy. Thus, California’s maternity leave laws can provide up to 7 months of total leave to employees.
What If Your Maternity Leave is Denied?
Even though the maternity leave laws in California are clear, your employer may still violate your legal rights in this area. If your maternity leave is denied, you have three options.
- Try to resolve your dispute with your employer informally.
- File an administrative claim with the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing.
- If you are unable to resolve the claim, you have the right to file a legal suit in pursuit of damages.
If you prevail, you may receive compensatory damages and even have your job reinstated if you lost it due to your employer’s violation of the maternity leave laws in California. You may also be entitled to punitive damages if your case involves malicious, fraudulent, or oppressive conduct on the part of your employer.
Should You Hire a Lawyer If you Choose to File a Legal Suit?
Yes, it is in your best interest to hire a lawyer if you choose to file a lawsuit. That’s because maternity laws can be complicated, and your case—like many cases—may not be a straightforward one. No matter how complex your case might be, an attorney can help you to collect relevant information and apply the existing law to your case in a way that is compelling.
An employment law attorney can ultimately help you avoid the pitfalls that many individuals without a law background are not familiar with. He or she can also help you maximize the monetary damages you receive in a successfully litigated lawsuit.
Seek the Help of a Lawyer If Your Maternity Leave is Denied
If you have discovered that your maternity leave has been denied, you may feel a sense of panic, anger, frustration, and hopelessness. However, at Pimentel Law, we can help you with the process of filing a claim against your company. We’ll explain to you what your rights are according to the current maternity leave laws in California, and we’ll pursue the most favorable outcome possible in court given the circumstances surrounding your maternity leave case.
At Pimentel Law, we take pride in our personal value that every employee deserves quality representation and access to justice. In addition, we work hard to deliver dedicated and personalized legal representation at a high standard in your case.
Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help you protect your rights and best interests based on today’s maternity leave laws in California.