In California, pregnant and nursing workers are afforded a range of legal protections designed to safeguard their health, well-being and job security. California law provides comprehensive measures that exceed federal standards. These protections help to ensure a safe and equitable workplace for pregnant and nursing mothers.
This isn’t to say that California workers don’t benefit from protections at the federal level, because they do. However, when state law is more expansive and protective than federal law, state law is the governing force that safeguards the rights of affected workers.
California safeguards of particular importance
Under California law, pregnant employees are entitled to Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL). This law allows for up to four months of leave for disabilities related to pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions. This leave is separate from other leaves, ensuring that pregnant workers can take the time they need without dipping into other forms of paid or unpaid leave, such as employer-sponsored sick time.
Additionally, employers in California are required to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. This may include modifying work duties, providing more frequent breaks, allowing for a flexible work schedule or facilitating a transfer to a less strenuous position. These accommodations are aimed at mitigating any health risks associated with pregnancy and ensuring the comfort of employees.
Similarly, California law requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private space (other than a bathroom) for nursing mothers to express breast milk. The space provided must be close to the employee’s work area, shielded from view and free from intrusion. Employers must also provide access to a refrigerator or another cooling device for storing breast milk.
Finally, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) in California prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. This means that employers cannot fire, demote or discriminate against an employee in any aspect of hiring or employment due to pregnancy or related conditions.
The legal protections for pregnant and nursing workers in California are among the most robust in the nation. With that said, employers don’t always respect these legal requirements. As such, any workers who have concerns that their rights are being violated may benefit from seeking legal guidance accordingly.