Pregnant workers in California as well as those who plan to become pregnant are protected by state and federal law. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, amends Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act provides additional protections for pregnant workers in the Golden State. In 2023, Congress passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. This requirement was already in place in California because the FEHA also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.
Both the PDA and the FEHA prohibit pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Only employers with 15 or more workers are required to comply with the PDA’s provisions, but the FEHA applies when employers have five or more workers. Workers cannot be denied employment or promotion because they are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, and employers cannot ask employees or prospective employees pregnancy-related questions. The PDA is administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the FEHA is administered by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
The reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers that the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and the FEHA require could include more frequent breaks, flexible hours, less strenuous duties or a chair or stool to sit on while working. Employers in California are also required to provide pregnant workers with up to four months of maternity leave when they have their children. The appropriate amount of maternity leave is determined by medical professionals. When workers return from maternity leave, their employers are required to offer them their old jobs.
Protecting pregnant workers
When California workers become pregnant, their employers cannot fire them or refuse to promote them because of their condition, and they are entitled to reasonable accommodations like flexible schedules or more frequent breaks. Workers cannot be terminated or reprimanded for complaining about pregnancy discrimination, and their employers cannot ask them questions about their pregnancies or plans to become pregnant.