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Protecting Your Job on Maternity Leave

Maternity leave is a critical period for expecting mothers, offering them the time needed to care for their newborns without the worry of losing their jobs. In California, one of the most progressive states regarding employee rights, there are robust protections in place for employees before, during, and after maternity leave. 

Understanding these rights is essential for protecting your job during this transformative time. Here’s what you need to know as an expecting mother about how you can safeguard your rights while still taking maternity leave. 

Rights Before Maternity Leave

Preparation for maternity time starts well before the day you go into labor. California employees are entitled to protections under several laws, including the Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL), which allows up to four months of time off for women who are disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, such as modified work duties or temporary transfer to a less strenuous position.

During Maternity Leave

The primary laws governing maternity leave in California are the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Both laws provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the care of a newborn, adopted child, or foster care placement. To be eligible, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months. Importantly, these laws apply to employers with five or more employees, expanding the coverage compared to the federal requirement of 50 or more employees.

During this period, your job is protected, meaning you must be reinstated to the same or a comparable position upon your return. Moreover, your health insurance benefits must be maintained during your time off under the same conditions as if you had continued to work.

Rights After Maternity Leave

After parental leave, employees are entitled to return to work in the same or a comparable position with equivalent pay, benefits, and working conditions. If an employee experiences discrimination or retaliation because of taking maternity time, they may have grounds for a legal claim against their employer.

Additionally, under the New Parent Leave Act (NPLA), eligible employees are entitled to take leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement. This is in addition to any disability time taken for pregnancy or childbirth, providing further job protection for new mothers.

Protecting Your Job

California moms have several strategies at their disposal to protect their jobs before, during, and after taking maternity time. Leveraging state-specific laws and best practices, they can ensure a smoother transition while safeguarding their employment status. Here’s how:

Before Maternity Leave

  1. Understand Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with the California Family Rights Act, Pregnancy Disability Leave, and any relevant company policies. Knowing your entitlements is the first step in protecting your job.
  2. Notify Your Employer Early: As soon as it’s safe and practical, inform your employer about your pregnancy and anticipated time away. Early notification helps with planning and shows your commitment to transparency and your job.
  3. Discuss Accommodations: If you need accommodations during your pregnancy, engage in a dialogue with your employer about your needs. California law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and related conditions.

During Maternity Leave

  1. Maintain Communication: Keep an open line of communication with your employer during your time away, as appropriate. Share updates about your status and any changes in your anticipated return date. However, balance is key, as this time is primarily for you to focus on your new child.
  2. Document Everything: Keep records of all communications with your employer regarding your leave and any related matters. Documentation can be crucial if any disputes arise regarding your sabbatical or return to work.
  3. Understand the Scope of Your Sabbatical: Know the difference between leave covered by PDL and CFRA, as they serve different purposes. PDL is specifically for the period you are disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, while CFRA time can be used for bonding with your new child.

After Maternity Leave

  1. Plan Your Return: Before your sabbatical ends, discuss your return to work with your employer. Confirm your start date, and if necessary, discuss any accommodations or adjustments you might need upon returning.
  2. Know Your Rights for Returning: California law guarantees your right to return to the same or a comparable job after your pregnancy, assuming you’re eligible and have complied with the notice and documentation requirements.
  3. Address Any Concerns Promptly: If you encounter any issues upon returning to work, such as changes to your position that are not comparable, address these concerns with your employer or HR department immediately. If problems are not resolved, consider seeking legal advice.

By taking these proactive steps, California moms can better protect their jobs before, during, and after maternity leave, ensuring they can focus on their families during these important times without undue stress about their employment.

Stand Up for Your Right to Maternity Leave in California

Maternity time is a right, not a privilege. In California, the law is on the side of expecting mothers, ensuring they can welcome their new family member without the stress of job insecurity. By understanding and exercising these rights, employees can protect their jobs during this important period, ensuring a smoother transition back to work after taking time away.If you believe your California maternity leave rights have been violated, the next step is to contact an experienced workplace discrimination lawyer like those at Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP. Our skilled team has years of experience successfully representing victims of parental discrimination in the workplace. Learn more about how we can support you by scheduling your consultation today. 

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