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Bringing and nurturing new life into this world is a time filled with joy and excitement. In California, we have some of the country’s strongest employment leave laws that support and protect parents taking care of their newborns as well as parents welcoming children home through adoption and foster care. The Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (“PDLL”), the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”), and the Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) all exist to protect your right to take leave from your job as a new parent. 

California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave Law

Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act exists the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (“PDLL”). Under this law, if your employer has more than 5 employees, you are entitled to up to 4 months of leave (based on hours worked per week and duration of pregnancy or pregnancy related disability), which can be taken either all at once or intermittently. PDLL only applies to the parent who is carrying the pregnancy, and your leave under the PDLL runs at the same time as FMLA. Other than in very limited circumstances, it is illegal for your employer to terminate you while on leave or fail to reinstate you to the same or comparable job upon return from leave under California’s PDLL. For example, your employer cannot strip you of your former job duties and change your role after your return from leave. It is illegal for your employer to interfere with your leave or retaliate against you for taking it. Other protections under the PDLL include: 

  • Your employer is not allowed to request you to perform work while out on leave. 
  • Your employer is required to continue paying for the continuation of your health benefits (if your employer normally pays for those benefits).
  • You will not lose seniority or benefits for taking leave.

The California Family Rights Act and the Federal Family & Medical Leave Act

The California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) was originally modeled after the federal Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). The CFRA and FMLA both cover leave within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or start of foster care, and parents (including parents not carrying the pregnancy and adoptive/foster parents) are entitled to take leave under these laws if:

  • You have worked for your employer for 1+ year; and 
  • You have 1250+ hours of service in the past year.
  • FMLA: You meet the above conditions and your employer has 50+ employees who work within a 75-mile radius. 
  • CFRA: Under its recent expansion, CFRA requires an employer to have 5+ employees for their employees to be eligible in addition to the above conditions.

Like the PDLL, the CFRA and FMLA includes protections such as reinstating you to your same or comparable job (except in limited circumstances unrelated to your leave), not interfering with your leave by requesting you to perform work while out on leave, continuing payment of group health benefits (if they normally pay for them), not retaliating against or terminating you for taking leave, and protecting against the loss of seniority or benefits for taking leave. 

Like the PDLL, CFRA does not require eligible employees to take their leave all at once. For example, you may take bonding leave in separate 2-week blocks. However, under FMLA, you must receive approval from your employer for intermittent leave unless you have a serious pregnancy-related health condition and intermittent leave is medically necessary. 

Recently, California just expanded CFRA rights to strengthen and expand coverage. Effective January 1, 2021:

  • The CFRA now will apply to private employers with five or more employees. 
  • The former CFRA requirement for employees to work within 75 miles of their worksite is eliminated. 
  • Employers who employ both parents of a child must grant separate CFRA leave to each qualifying parent, either at the same time or back to back, depending on the requests of the employees. 
  • The right to PDL will be a separate right from CFRA and will not have to run concurrently. CFRA leave runs after PDL, which means that parents taking pregnancy disability leave are entitled to take additional leave under the CFRA for a different qualifying reason. 

While these legal protections exist, it unfortunately does not always guarantee that your employer will uphold them, creating stress during a time that should be joyful. If you believe your employer has violated your right to protected leave, please call us at (415) 453-4740 to schedule an initial intake.