Pregnancy Discrimination

Employees in California are protected against pregnancy discrimination under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, and under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Employers in California are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sex – and this includes pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or a related medical condition.

This means that an employer cannot discriminate against an employee because of pregnancy. An employer cannot refuse to hire or promote an employee because the employee is pregnant (or because the employer is concerned that the employee might become pregnant in the future). Similarly, an employer cannot terminate an employee because that employee is pregnant or might become pregnant. “Because of” does not mean that pregnancy is the only reason that an employer took an adverse action against an employee. Rather, it means it is unlawful for pregnancy to be a substantial motivating factor (or a reason) that contributed to an employer’s decision to take adverse action.


Other examples of pregnancy discrimination include:

Refusing to provide a raise to an employee because they are pregnant or might become pregnant

Reducing the hours of an employee who is pregnant against her wishes

Assigning an employee less favorable or less desirable job assignments because of pregnancy

Employers in California are required to accommodate employees who need an accommodation due to a pregnancy related disability where that individual’s health care provider has advised that a reasonable accommodation is medically advisable. Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

Modifying job duties so an employee does not have to lift heavy items during pregnancy

Allowing an employee to work on a flexible schedule to accommodate morning sickness

Temporarily transferring an employee to a different position; or

Allowing an employee to work from home.

In California, employers are required to provide breaks to employees when they need to express breastmilk, and they must provide a private lactation location (other than a restroom) that is close to the employee’s work area. The area must be clean and free of hazardous materials. It must also have a place for the employee to sit, and a surface for the employee to place a breast pump and personal belongings and have access to electricity. Additionally, employers must provide a sink with running water, and a refrigerator that is suitable for storing breastmilk.

At the end of a CFRA leave, employers must return an employee to their same or to a comparable position. This means a position with the same or similar duties, pay, and location.


Though leave under the CFRA is unpaid, partial wage replacement is often possible. If CFRA is being used for an employee’s own serious health condition, partial wage replacement may be available through California’s State Disability Insurance (SDI) program. If CFRA leave is used for baby bonding or to care for a family member with a serious health condition, California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) program may provide for partial wage replacement. Employees can apply for both SDI and PFL through California’s Employment Development Department (EDD).


While an employee is taking CFRA leave, employers need to maintain the employee’s health insurance at the same level they would maintain it if the employee did not take leave no matter the reason for the CFRA leave.


Employers cannot refuse to grant an eligible employee CFRA leave and cannot take any adverse action against an employee because the employee has taken parental leave or any other job-protected leave under the California Family Rights Act. Adverse actions might include termination, demotion, or a transfer to a less desirable position or location.

The Schlehr Law Firm represents employees who have been discriminated against because they are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. If you believe you have been terminated or discriminated against because of your pregnancy, please contact us.

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