The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives certain employees up to three months of unpaid pregnancy leave. In addition, California Paid Family Leave (PFL) provides paid prenatal and postnatal benefits to eligible mothers and caretakers, ostensibly providing new families financial security while encouraging critical parent-child bonds.
It is critical that employers understand and comply with state and federal law requirements with regard to pregnancy and disability leave, as failure to do can result in significant legal and collateral problems. Centurion Trial Attorneys helps employers develop policies and procedures that ensure compliance with state and federal employment law and mitigate risk.
Who Can Get Maternity Leave in California?
California PFL provides many expectant mothers with four weeks of paid prenatal leave to help pregnant women prepare for labor and delivery. Once qualified for prenatal leave, new mothers may apply for an additional six weeks of postnatal leave (eight weeks for C-sections) to heal and encourage family bonds. Regardless of citizenship or immigration status, California residents may qualify for paid pregnancy disability leave in San Diego if they meet the following criteria:
- Cannot work in their chosen career field due to pregnancy, child bonding, or related medical caretaker functions
- Lost (or anticipated losing) wages, i.e., not have employer-paid maternity benefits due to pregnancy/birth
- Employed or actively seeking employment
- Apply for benefits within 41 days of delivery
- Paid into California State Disability Insurance (“CASDI”) in the past five to eighteen months, i.e., working with CASDI withholdings on at least $300
- Obtain medical pregnancy/birth documentation
- Did not take the maximum eight weeks of PFL in the past 12 months
CASDI generally covers expectant and new mothers who contributed to the state disability scheme and do not have private short-term disability insurance. Potential beneficiaries should check their paystubs for CASDI withholdings within the eligibility period. Importantly, foster parents, adoptive parents, parents of pregnant minors, and fathers could all potentially qualify for PFL if they're bonding with children and caring for new mothers. Women experiencing difficult pregnancies or unable to perform potentially dangerous job-related tasks may qualify for an additional four months of unpaid leave under California's Pregnancy Disability Act (“PDA”).
California's New Parent Leave Act also grants 12 weeks of supplementary unpaid leave to many new parents. Birth, adoptive, and foster parents working for companies with 20-49 local employees may request up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave within 12 months of becoming parents. To qualify for new parent leave in San Diego, the employee must have worked for the company for 12 months and 1,250 hours (approximately 24 hours per week). An experienced pregnancy and family leave lawyer can explain your maternity rights and benefit options under state and federal disability schemes.
Do Employers Need to Pay Employees on Pregnancy Leave?
California PFL only applies to expectant parents without employer-paid family leave. The state provides PFL through its short-term disability scheme. As such, claimants' benefits vary depending on their taxable income. Weekly benefits range from $50 to $1,357, and they typically cover 60-70% of lost wages. California PFL isn't always sufficient to provide for new mothers.
Title 2, §11044 of the California Code of Regulations states that employers are not required to pay employees pregnancy leave unless they also provide similarly situated employees with short-term disability benefits (paid leave). For example, employers cannot provide co-workers with paid disability benefits for neck injuries following car accidents but refuse to provide the same benefits to pregnant women. Employers must provide this coverage, even out of pocket, if they failed to include statutorily mandated pregnancy benefits in their short-term disability package. This exception only applies to pregnant co-workers with the same status and benefits as covered employees. If the employer only provides disability benefits to managers, only managers can enforce their maternity/paternity rights under 2 CCR § 11044. The pregnancy leave and benefits lawyers at Centurion Trial Attorneys might help expectant parents in San Diego understand, claim, and, if necessary, demand maternity benefits under 2 CCR § 11044.
Do I Get My Exact Job Back After Returning from California Pregnancy Disability Leave?
Complications often arise when employees return from pregnancy leave. Under both FMLA and California regulations, employers must generally reinstate covered employees upon request. Title 2, §11044 entitles eligible employees to the same seniority level and benefits upon their return. However, it does not guarantee you can return to the exact same job. Because it's difficult to fill many high-level positions temporarily, employers may re-staff your job and instead offer you a substantially similar position.
Many employees question changes to their job descriptions, seniority, and benefits after returning from family and pregnancy leave. They may even return to work with the same job title but find they no longer command the same responsibilities. To qualify as a substantially similar job, the position must generally provide the following:
- The same salary as previously enjoyed
- The same benefits package, including retirement, healthcare, vacation, and sick leave
- Substantially similar job tasks and responsibilities
- Equivalent seniority
- Very similar shifts and work hours in the same or nearby location
Most employers redistribute their employees' job tasks during pregnancy leave and reinstate them upon request. However, this isn't always possible. Certain jobs require immediate re-staffing, which creates compilations for employers and new hires. Pregnancy leave disputes often arise when employees are dissatisfied with their new reinstated position.
California's job security laws exist to prevent employers from discriminating against pregnant women. As such, pregnancy leave laws do not apply to departmental layoffs or job loss for reasons unrelated to the pregnancy. They also do not protect returning employees from changes applicable to similarly situated co-workers. If the company reduces all employee retirement benefits during your pregnancy leave, you may not demand the pre-reduction benefits under California's pregnancy leave regulations.
When to Contact a California Pregnancy Leave & Disability Attorney
California prioritizes building healthy family bonds and ensuring safe pregnancies by protecting expectant parents from workplace discrimination. Sometimes employers simply misunderstand their state and federal obligations, as numerous regulations overlap. Fortunately, by working with Centurion Trial Attorneys, you can ensure that your company's polices are in compliance with state and federal law. To learn more about we can help you or your business, call us today at (858) 206-8833 or contacting us online.