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Pregnancy Disability Leave

Pregnancy Disability Leave , or PDL, is a set of job protections for California employees who are disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. It is part of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, or FEHA. If you have questions about your pregnancy disability leave and think your rights have been violated, consult the Oakland pregnancy disability leave lawyers at Spencer Young Law for a free consultation.

Who is Protected by the PDL Laws?

You are protected if your employer is subject to FEHA. It does not matter how long you have worked there or how many hours you have worked in that time.

Which Employers are Subject to FEHA?

Any employer with 5 or more employees. In many cases, even independent contractors are counted towards the number of employees.

When May I Use PDL?

You may use PDL if you cannot perform essential functions of your job due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, or if performing the essential functions of your job would pose a risk to your health or to your pregnancy.

How Much Time off am I Guaranteed?

PDL provides up to 4 months of leave. It can be taken all at once, or intermittently.

Example: Jennifer, an employment attorney in Oakland, California, continues to work during her pregnancy, but experiences severe morning sickness 3-4 times per month. She may use PDL to take half-days when needed due to morning sickness.

What Actions Must I Take to Use PDL?

You must inform your employer of your need for PDL with as much advance notice as you can provide. However, your need for PDL is not always foreseeable. If you must take PDL before you have the opportunity to notify your employer, you must notify them at the earliest practical opportunity. Your employer may require you to submit documentation from your health care provider certifying your need for PDL.

What if I Need More Than 4 Months of Leave?

FEHA requires a reasonable accommodation for people with qualifying disabilities, including those otherwise covered by PDL. In some cases, an extension of your leave beyond what is offered through PDL and FMLA would be considered a reasonable accommodation. If you are unsure how these laws interact with each other, call the Oakland medical leave attorneys at Spencer Young Law.

How is My Job Protected When I Use PDL?

Upon completing your PDL, you must be restored to the job you had prior to taking leave. You must receive the same pay and benefits, have the same responsibilities, and enjoy the same terms and conditions as before.

Example: Carline gave birth and then used 4 months of PDL due to post-partum depression. Upon her return, she is transferred from her employer’s Oakland office to its office in Hayward. This is a significant change to the conditions of Carline’s employment. Her employer has violated the PDL laws.

What Other Protections do I Enjoy While Taking PDL?

Your employer must continue to provide any group health benefits you were receiving prior to taking leave. Your employer must cover the same premium payments or other costs that it covered prior to your leave. However, you may be charged for any costs that were your responsibility prior to your leave.

Example 1: Qing’s employer pays 100% of the premium on a group health insurance plan for all of its employees. Qing uses 4 months of PDL. During this time, her employer must continue to pay 100% of her premium.

Example 2: Selena’s employer pays 100% of the premium on a group health insurance plan for all of its employees. It allows employees to add their children to their plans, but employees are responsible for 100% of their children’s premiums. Selena takes 2 months of PDL. During this time, her employer must continue to pay Selena’s premium, and continue to allow her children to be on her plan. However, the employer does not need to pay the premiums for her children.

Can I be Fired for Taking PDL?

Your employer may not retaliate against you for exercising your PDL rights. However, you can still be terminated during or after returning from PDL if there is a legitimate reason to terminate you, or if you would have been terminated anyway had you not taken leave.

Example 1: Leila works at a winery. In August, management sent employees a memorandum indicating that there would be a restructuring of the organization. In September, Leila learned she was pregnant. In December, she began PDL. In January, management notified 25% of its workforce that they would be laid off by the end of the month. Leila was laid off, as was every other person in her position. While this is unfortunate for Leila, it is unlikely to be an act of retaliation because it would have happened even had Leila not taken leave.

Example 2: Suzanne is suspected of embezzlement from the bank in San Francisco where she works. The branch manager informs her in May that she is under investigation and places her on administrative leave. Suzanne subsequently takes PDL starting in June. She returns in October. At that time, the branch manager informs her that they are terminating her for embezzlement. If her employer had good reason to believe she engaged in serious misconduct, then the mere fact of her PDL would not protect her from a termination that was otherwise justified.

Example 3: Kandice takes 6 weeks of PDL. Upon her return, her supervisor states that her coworkers really struggled while she was gone because she hadn’t responded to their e-mails and text messages. The supervisor explains that this really hurt team morale, and they are disappointed she wasn’t more communicative. The supervisor says that her continued employment will depend on her quickly regaining the trust of her coworkers, and it would help for her to apologize to them. A couple weeks later, Kandice is terminated for “not being a team player.” Here, the reason given for terminating Kandice was directly related to her exercising her PDL rights. This was likely an illegal act of retaliation.

If you have questions about your Pregnancy Disability Leave rights, or if you think those rights were violated, call the Oakland pregnancy disability lawyers at Spencer Young Law today for a free consultation.

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