Maternity Leave California

Maternity leave in California is designed to ensure that expecting employees are protected. The availability and process of obtaining leave is often the first thought of many employees after finding out they’re expecting. Fortunately, maternity leave is considered a legal right in the state, and employees are protected by four different laws: CFRA, FEHA, FMLA, and PDL.

While you have the right to take time off, your employer isn’t legally required to continue pay during this time period. However, many employees are able to find financial support during maternity leave through other means like disability insurance. California’s disability law covers many of the issues and symptoms of pregnancy, birth, and post-delivery because of the magnitude of the situation.

Who’s Entitled to Maternity Leave in California?

Both the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protect employees’ rights to maternity leave, but employees and their employer must meet specific requirements to qualify. The main requirements include:

  • Company Size: The business must have a minimum of 50 individuals working for them. If the company owns multiple locations, the employee count can include all of individuals within 75 miles.
  • Duration: Employees seeking maternity leave in California must also have worked for the company for at least 12 consecutive months.
  • Worked Hours: Within the past year, the employee must have completed at least 1,250 hours of work for their employer. This averages to around 24 hours per week which means that some part-time employees may also qualify for maternity leave.

As long as you meet the above requirements, you are allowed 12 weeks of maternity leave in California to be used for bonding time between the parent and child.

What is Pregnancy Disability Leave in California?

Along with maternity leave, California employees have the right to request additional time off work during their pregnancy as a result of symptoms that qualify as a disability, which is accompanied by a rather broad definition. If a company employs more than five individuals, they’re required to following the laws put forth by California’s Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA).

One of the legal stipulations included under FEHA, called the Pregnancy Disability Law (PDL), requires that female employees are given time off if they are disabled by pregnancy or childbirth, or if the individual suffers from any illness or medical condition related to either. According to the law, these issues may include:

  • Bed Rest
  • Childbirth
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Loss of Child
  • Post-Partum Depression
  • Preeclampsia
  • Prenatal Care
  • Postnatal Care
  • Post-Partum Depression

Suffering from any of these issues, as well as other specific other problems, qualifies employees for up to 16 weeks of pregnancy disability under FEHA and is considered separate from CFRA maternity leave.

If you qualify for both pregnancy disability leave and maternity leave, you may take the additional three months provided by CFRA after the four months provided by FEHA. If the full amount of disability leave is approved, employees could potentially take around seven months of leave from work.

Does Maternity Leave Need to be Taken All at Once?

Expecting employees can break up the 16 weeks of disability leave throughout their pregnancy and post-natal period. The FEHA laws dictating California’s maternity leave are designed knowing that not all pregnancy-related disabilities occur continuously throughout the duration of the situation.

Known as intermittent leave, employees can request disability leave through all three trimesters, following birth, or during serious medical problems. Employers are required by law to provide expecting employees with leave as long as employees provide adequate medical documentation, and it doesn’t exceed more than four months. However, companies are allowed to request that the employee move to another position during this time period as long as they don’t reduce their pay or cut their benefits.

Can Your Company Fire You for Becoming Pregnant?

Employer discrimination as a result of pregnancy is against the law in California and is covered under FEHA. Along with dismissal, the law also protects expecting employees from things like harassment.

While you can’t be fired or treated poorly because of your pregnancy, it’s not illegal for employers to dismiss a person who is pregnant as a result of things like poor work or attendance issues. You’re also not protected from department or company-wide layoffs.

Anyone that’s fired from a position and believes it’s directly related to their pregnancy should seek legal advice. An attorney specializing in employment law can thoroughly investigate and determine if the dismissal was legal or not.

Do California Employees Have a Right to Their Job After Taking Maternity Leave?

Since maternity leave in California is considered a legal right, employers can’t fire an individual simply because they’ve taken their allowed time off. Any business that attempts to dismiss a person as a result of their maternity leave or reduce their pay is breaking the law. After returning from leave, employees should also be allowed to go back to their position or one that is similar in pay, benefits, and title.

Why Understanding California Maternity Leave Laws Is Important

Anyone that’s expecting a child and lives in the state of California needs to be aware of their legal right to maternity leave. The state offers some of the most impressive and extensive protections to families within the entire country, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t face discrimination. It’s important that you know the laws in order to protect yourself and your family.

California Paid Family Leave

In 2004, the state of California enhanced their State Disability Insurance (SDI) to include Paid Family Leave (PFL). This law extends the protections of expecting employees and helps reduce the financial burden of maternity leave.

Who Qualifies for PFL?

Not everyone automatically qualifies for PFL. To be approved for the paid leave under California’s SDI, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a California resident;
  • Make regular contributions to the SDI fund from your paycheck;
  • Provide required documentation from a medical physician; 
  • Be requesting the time for the birth, foster care placement, or adoption of a new child or as a result of a sick relative.

If you’re requesting PFL as a result of bonding time with a child, the event of their birth or arrival into your family needs to have been within the last 12 months.

What Are the Benefits of PFL?

California’s PFL law offers multiple benefits. You may qualify for a portion of your normal weekly pay for up to six weeks of approved leave. The maximum amount of payment you can receive is 55 percent of your typically weekly income. The exact amount that you awarded is based on the highest quarterly income during a 5 to 18-month period as long you’ve paid SDI fees during that timeframe and have earned a minimum of $300.

Variations to the law can occur at any time, but most recently, the highest a person can receive on a weekly basis is $1067 and the lowest is $50. The amounts received are based on earning brackets. Quarterly incomes under $1375 and above $75 are allotted $50 every week of PFL. On the other end of the spectrum, individuals whose highest quarterly earnings exceeded $25,196.37 can expect the highest available weekly amount.

While PFL offers multiple benefits to California residents, it’s not as straightforward as it seems. Some of the variations to the process include:

  • Start Delay: There’s a one-week delay from between approval when the payments begin.
  • Vacation/Sick Time: You may be required to use two weeks of your sick or vacation hours before you can receive benefits.
  • Staggered Benefits: It’s also possible to break up your benefits and use as needed instead of all at once.
  • Multiple Parents: Each legal parent can apply for PFL during the same time period or at different times.

The variety of ways that the family leave can be broken up allows parents to more ability to modify the schedule to meet their needs.

How to Claim PFL

Employers aren’t responsible for PFL. The entire process, from approval to distribution of fund, goes through the state. You can begin the application process by contacting the Employment Development Department online or by calling (877) 238-4373.

How to Qualify for Disability Leave

The State of California requires that you meet specific requirements to obtain financial disability payments. This criteria includes:

  • Resident of California;
  • Eight days of income (back-to-back) that provided SDI contributions;
  • Current medical situation prevents completion of work tasks;
  • Receive care from physician for the initial eight disability days.

It’s also important to point out that employees aren’t allowed to receive both disability and PFL during the same time period, but you can utilize disability through the eligibility timeframe and then switch over to PFL benefits.

What Are the Benefits of Disability Leave?

Disability leave, like PFL, is calculated based on highest quarterly income over the last year. However, disability benefits are not capped at six weeks and are available for up to 12 months.

How to Claim Disability Leave

As with PFL, all pregnancy-related disability claims are processed through the Employment Development Department. The initial application can be completed on their website or over the phone at (800) 480-3287.

The California Family Rights Act

The state initiated the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to allow parents to request more time to bond with their child as well as extend their pregnancy-related disability leave. By meeting the required criteria, employees are able to request three months of leave and 16 additional weeks of disability leave.

How to Qualify for CFRA

CFRA qualification requires that certain criteria be met including:

  • One year of employment for the same company;
  • Company size of 50 or more;
  • Minimum of 1,250 work hours;
  • Resident of California.

The law is available for both part- and full-time employees who meet the eligibility requirements, and both parents and domestic partners may apply.

Pregnancy Disability Under CFRA

While CFRA provides an additional 12 weeks of bonding time, it also provides expecting employees with up to 16 weeks of disability leave. The act covers a variety of issues including:

  • Acute Morning Sickness
  • Prenatal Care
  • Medically Advised Bed Rest
  • Childbirth
  • Postnatal

It’s necessary to point out that CFRA and SDI benefits and requirements are different, so qualifying for one doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll qualify for the other.

How to Request CFRA Leave

The sooner you speak to your employer, the better it is for the process. Make your request in an official way, preferably printed. Also, be sure to speak with a member the human resources team for details regarding any needed company paperwork and documentation.

The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act

Along with state protections, expecting employees are also covered under a federal law called the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Implemented in 1993, the legislation provides women with 12 weeks of time off without losing their health insurance benefits, although it’s not accompanied by pay. It also stipulates that employers must allow employees to return to either same position or a similar spot that maintains the same wage, rank, and company benefits.

The main difference between FMLA and CFRA is the addition of pregnancy-related disability leave provided in the California version. When compared side-by-side, employees typically benefit more from the state protections than from the federal. More information regarding FMLA can be found at the Department of Labor online portal.

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