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Can I Be Fired While Pregnant in California?

Fired While Pregnant

Pregnancy is a significant life event, and for working women, it often brings up concerns about job security and rights in the workplace. In California, employees are afforded protections under various laws that make it illegal for an employer to terminate an employee based on pregnancy. Understanding these rights is crucial for expecting mothers in the workforce.

Federal Protections

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is a federal law that forbids discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. This act makes it illegal for employers to fire, refuse to hire, or treat pregnant women differently from other employees.

California State Laws

California provides additional protections through the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which applies to employers with 5 or more employees. FEHA prohibits discrimination against pregnant employees and provides for reasonable accommodations.

Both FMLA and CFRA allow eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. This leave is also available for an employee’s own serious health condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for FMLA/CFRA leave, an employee must:

  • Work for a covered employer
  • Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months before the start of leave
  • Work at a location with 50 or more employees within 75 miles

California Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL)

California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave provides up to four months of leave for employees disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, regardless of the employee’s length of service or hours worked (applicable to companies with 5 or more employees).

Unlawful Termination During Pregnancy

In California, you cannot be fired for any reason related to:

  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy-related conditions
  • Childbirth
  • Taking protected leave under FMLA, CFRA, or PDL

Exceptions and Other Considerations

While the laws are stringent, there are scenarios where termination may be legal. These scenarios include:

  • The position is no longer available due to legitimate business reasons, unrelated to the pregnancy or leave.
  • The employee would have been lawfully terminated due to performance issues or misconduct unrelated to her pregnancy.

In these cases, employers must be able to provide clear, documented reasons for termination that are non-discriminatory and unrelated to the employee’s pregnancy.

What to Do If You Are Fired While Pregnant

The Los Angeles pregnancy discrimination attorneys from Yadegar, Minoofar, & Soleymani LLP explain the following steps you should take if you were fired while being pregnant:

  • Consult with HR: Understand the reason for termination. It might be unrelated to your pregnancy.
  • Document Everything: Keep records of all communications and any instances of discrimination or disparate treatment.
  • Seek Legal Advice: A lawyer can help determine if your rights were violated and guide you in possible legal actions.
  • File a Complaint: You can file a discrimination complaint with the DFEH or the EEOC.

While you can, technically, be fired while pregnant in California, the law prohibits terminations due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated due to pregnancy, you have the right to seek legal recourse. Understanding your rights can help ensure fair treatment in the workplace during this pivotal period in your life.

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