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Sacramento Employment Law Blog


Judge reinstates pregnancy discrimination case in California

On behalf of Law Offices of William F. Wright posted in Workplace Discrimination on Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When a woman is pregnant, she must be concerned about not only her own health and safety but that of her unborn child as well. There may need to be adjustments made to a woman’s lifestyle in order to ensure that she and her baby are as healthy as possible. These accommodations are often necessary but unfortunately, not everyone is sensitive to these needs. This is why there are laws in place that require California employers to make appropriate accommodations for pregnant workers.

One of the accommodations that a pregnant woman is entitled to is time off to have her baby. In California, women are given four months off before they are supposed to return to work. However, this does not mean that an employer can automatically fire a woman who is not ready to return to work after those four months if she is disabled by a difficult pregnancy.

According to a recent appeals court ruling, women disabled by pregnancy are entitled to the same protections as any other worker who is disabled. While laws that relate to pregnancy specify that a woman is to be given four months of leave, there is no such time limit set on the leave that a disabled worker is entitled to. This clarification was the target of a lawsuit in which a pregnant woman claimed her firing was based on discrimination when she could not return to work as an airplane cleaner after four weeks.

After doctors diagnosed the woman with a high-risk pregnancy, the woman needed to take an extended leave because she needed to be on bed rest for the rest of her pregnancy. However, she was fired after she could not return to work after four months, before she had even had her baby. At first, a court sided with the employer who argued that they were not required to hold her job for longer than four months and dismissed the woman’s lawsuit.

The appeals court disagreed, however. Because the woman’s leave did not create an undue hardship for the employer, they should have granted the extension under the terms of disability leave. When they failed to do this and then fired the woman, they were in violation of laws that protect women from pregnancy discrimination. Therefore, the lawsuit was reinstated and the woman can continue her pursuit in holding her former employer liable for damages.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, “Pregnancy discrimination suit reinstated,” Feb. 25, 2013