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What is California's pregnancy disability leave law?

Pregnancy can be a wonderful and exciting chapter in your life, but it can also bring many new worries, especially if you are experiencing a difficult pregnancy. If you are a pregnant employee in California, you have certain rights and protections under California law, including the right to reasonable accommodations stemming from your pregnancy or childbirth.

Your employer must also grant you pregnancy disability leave (PDL) when needed. PDL gives you up to four months of unpaid leave for medical conditions related to your pregnancy that keep you from working. The law requires your employer to guarantee you return to your same job, or a similar job. There are certain steps you must take to receive PDL:

  • Check your eligibility. The law requires any employer with five or more employees to grant PDL. You will need your doctor to recommend the leave.
  • Notice to your employer. You must notify your employer of your medical situation within a reasonable time. This usually means 30 days if you know of your needs ahead of time. If you have an emergency situation, however, you simply need to inform them as soon as you can. This also applies to receiving accommodations or requesting a transfer.
  • Note from your medical provider. You may need to provide your employer with documentation from your doctor regarding the reason for your PDL. In an emergency, your employer should allow you 15 days after the emergency to provide them the documentation.
  • Combination with other leave. PDL does not change your eligibility for other leave, like the California Family Rights Act, or even if your employer provides for pregnancy leave. If your employer provides longer leave for other types of disability, it must provide that leave for PDL, as well. In addition, if your employer pays other employees on disability, they must pay you, too. Otherwise, the leave is unpaid, but you may use paid vacation or sick time during your leave.

You may not need to take a complete leave of absence, and you do not have to take all your PDL at one time. You may need to cut down to half-time, or you may need to take off a few days each week. Your doctor will help you determine what type of accommodations you need during your pregnancy.

In California, many laws and regulations protect you and your pregnancy from discrimination. Your employer cannot violate any of these laws without subjecting themselves to harsh consequences. Now that you know a little more about PDL, you can rest easier and focus on what truly matters-the health of you and your baby.

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