Motherhood can be one of the most rewarding yet excruciating tasks a woman has to take on. Employers must understand the importance of maternity leave and how it plays out within a women’s State and Federal rights. The short answer, is no, an employer cannot fire you while on maternity leave as long as you qualify to be protected under certain laws. Chances are, you are, and you must not let an employer take advantage of you and violate your rights.
The majority of employees are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits any sort of employment discrimination based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The requirement to be protected is that the employer must employ no less than 15 employees who have worked at least 20 weeks within the past 12 months. Unlawful employment practices according to the law are defined as a situation if an employer fails to refuse or hire or discharge an individual, including if they withhold any sort of compensations, terms, conditions, or privileges related to employment. It’s also considered a violation if an employer limits, segregates, or classifies an employee to the point that they are deprived of employment opportunities or if their employee status is negatively affected. Evidently, being fired falls under this category of unlawful employment practices, and should not be taken lightly. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was then amended under the Civil Rights Act in 1978, which then allowed pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions to fall under the category of sex. As a woman employee, you are protected under the PDA as well.
In terms of your rights for maternity leave, there a couple different acts in place. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) legally allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave due to medical conditions. These conditions include, the birth of a child and care of a newborn; the care of spouse, child, or parent with a severe health condition; a severe health condition that prevents you from doing your job; or special qualifications for a family member that is a covered military member. Requirements to be covered under the FMLA are that the employer must employ at least 50 people who have all worked at least 20 hours within the last 12 months. To be a qualified employee you must have been employed with the company for at least a year and have worked at least 1,250 hours within the last 12 months and live within a 75 mile radius of the job site. Pregnancy is specifically included in this law, and you are limited to a maximum of 12 months leave without pay, but guaranteed job security.
If you are covered under the FMLA, chances are you are also covered under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). The basic requirements are the same for the state law, the employer must employ at least 50 people, and the employee must have worked at the organization for at least 1 year, accumulated at least 1,250 hours of work within the last 12 months, and live within a 75 mile radius of the job. Under the CFLA, and employer must continue to provide health coverage for the employee. While both the CFRA and FMLA are very similar, there are just a few key differences.
Another similar act that extends its coverage even further is the Fair Employment Housing Act (FEHA). The minimum requirement for employment for a company is only 5, and there is no minimum requirement for how long an employee has to be employed at that job, however it only applies to the employee themselves, and no relatives. The FEHA is modeled similar to Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts in that it prohibits any act of discrimination against job applicants and employees because of a protected category. Sex or gender as a protected category specifically includes pregnancy, childbirth, and any related medical conditions.
In conjunction with these laws are a few ones pertaining specifically to maternity leave. California has two types of maternity leave: Pregnancy Disability Leave and Baby Bonding Leave. Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) applies to employers with 5 or more employees. If you were disabled due to pregnancy, you may be eligible to up to 4 months of unpaid leave. The actual length depends on the health care provider and the actual length of the disability. If you want to be able to exercise your rights by taking a maternity leave based on disability, a doctor must verify that you are not able to perform one or all of tasks for work due to the pregnancy. Pregnancy itself is not considered a disability, and so it is not until usually around the 36th week that women start feeling symptoms that directly affect their job. However, certain complications such could always lead to an early leave. Some of these symptoms may include, severe morning sickness, pre and post natal care, the need for bed rest, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and so on. It is also considered to take about 6 to 8 weeks to fully recover after giving birth, so a woman is still considered disabled until she can fully perform all the functions of her work. After this time off, the PDL guarantees reinstatement, so your employer is violating your rights if they do not provide your job back once you have finished your leave.
If 12 weeks is still not enough, there is the option to use something called Baby Bonding Leave. This can be used after you have exhausted your 4 months under PDL, and is a law enacted to allow for mothers and fathers to bond with their new baby. Essentially, a new parent could be allowed up to 7 months of unpaid leave with assurance that they will be able to return to their job afterwards. This applies to companies that employ 20 or more people, and the employee must have been working at the company for at least a year, accumulated 1,250 hours of work within the last 12 months, and live within a 75 mile radius of the work site. The CFRA and FMLA cover Baby-Bonding Leave, while on the only FMLA covers PDA. The New Parental Leave Act is a California act that applies to those that don’t qualify under the FMLA or CFRA. The New Parental Leave Act only requires 20 people to be employed under the employer but still allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave with continued health services and a guaranteed job security. Parental Leave and FMLA or CFRA cannot be used together; Parental Leave is specifically designed for those who are not covered under the Federal laws.
All these acts that grant 12 months unpaid leave also must allow you to use any saved up paid time off of paid sick leave. Employers are not usually obligated to pay you while you are gone, but there are some possibilities of compensation while you are one leave. Since medical conditions caused by pregnancy in California are considered a disability, you may have access to payments from disability insurance. The California State Disability Insurance program provides partial wage replacements for those on disability leave, which included disabilities from pregnancy or childbirth. You can continue to collect payments for up to 52 weeks about 60%-70% of your wage prior to taking time off.
Weekly monetary wages ranges from $50-$1252. To qualify for these benefits you must file a claim for disability insurance, serves a seven day, unpaid waiting period, have at least $300 in wages that were allotted to State Disability Insurance during the last 12 months, and have a certified doctor’s notes verifying your disability.
It is evident that many different types of maternity or family leave are protected under numerous laws. In California not only is your job protected, but you may be able to continue being paid while on leave. If your employer is lawful, then you should not have to worry about being fired for taking a maternity leave. However, we know not everyone in your life will follow the law, and that’s where the California Labor Law Employment Group steps in. For all the unjust and law resistant employers out there, we are ready to take them down, call out their wrongful ways, and maximize your redemption. If you have been fired for taking a maternity leave do not hesitate to call us or come in to our office today. We will pair you with some of the most knowledgeable attorneys in Los Angeles to evaluate your case. Money is not an issue, our consultation is free, and you won’t have to pay anything to except a small fee if your case is won. The California Labor Law Employment Group is eager to restore happiness to your journey through motherhood.