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Used Pregnancy Disability Leave Before Birth? No, You Are Not Out Of Time

After being put on bedrest in February because of a high-risk pregnancy and not scheduled to deliver until October, Ana Fuentes Sanchez was granted leave under the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL). After being off work for 19 weeks – which included the four months under the PDLL and any accrued sick and vacation time – Swissport fired Sanchez for failing to return to work.

She was fired in July, with nearly three months of her high-risk pregnancy still ahead of her. She could not come back to work without putting hers or her baby’s life in danger, but she did plan to come back shortly after the birth and anticipated needing little to no accommodation.

Prior decisions by California courts have held that medical leave that is for a defined period of time may be a reasonable accommodation, in this case for a pregnancy-related disability. The PDLL is not the exclusive source of authority for employees to take job-protected leave while experiencing a pregnancy-related disability. There is no four-months-and-that’s-all-you-get limit.

Once the four months of the PDLL are exhausted, a female employee may seek reasonable accommodation for a disability under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) for a pregnancy-related health issue.

The court did not rule on whether Fuentes was entitled to reinstatement or damages based on her claims of pregnancy discrimination and failure to provide reasonable accommodation. Her case had been dismissed by the trial court and this opinion simply reinstated her case, giving her the option to continue to pursue her legal remedies in the lower court or at the negotiating table.

Source: Court of Appeal for the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Four, Sanchez v. Swissport

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