Pregnancy Leave and Workplace Accommodations: Your Employee’s Rights


Your employee has approached you with a pregnancy announcement, as well as an accommodation request. Are you prepared to provide guidance on the available options? For the month of November, we’re focusing on parental leave and this week we’re talking about the protections and the accommodations employees are entitled to while they are pregnant.

The most important thing for employers to remember is that in California, pregnancy leave must be treated in the same manner as other short-term disability leaves. In fact, pregnancy itself is often listed as a disability in most laws outlining the various categories. This means that employers are required to approve of the leave if it has been recommended by a physician and that they are also required to notify employees of their rights well in advance. We recommend doing this as part of the orientation process, and as soon as any new laws or adjustments to existing laws occurs.

Pregnancy Disability Leave, or PDL, entitles employees of up to four months disability leave while pregnant if unable to perform essential functions, as determined by a physician. PDL can then be taken six to eight weeks immediately after the birth (the length of time depending on the recovery) but it does not include additional time for child-bonding. Employees are eligible as soon as they are hired.

The other leave that protects pregnant workers is the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. This leave provides up to 12 weeks for an employee to use while pregnant, or after the birth, or a combination of the two. It is required of employers with 50 or more employees to provide, and employees must have been with the company for one year before they are eligible.



Now let’s talk about pregnancy accommodations. These are reasonable responses to individual requests made by the pregnant employee and they are becoming more and more commonplace, and for good reason. Making necessary accommodations for your pregnant employees, or any employee with a disability for that matter, is good practice both in business and decorum.

Accommodations could be a flexible schedule, including the option to work from home, or physical modifications such as decreased lifting, reduced amount of time spent standing, or even reassignment to less-strenuous tasks. It is very important that any decisions about accommodations are arrived at with both the employer and employee in agreement.

The main takeaway here is that accommodations are generally easy to be made and they usually benefit both the employee as well as the employer. We all know how important retaining good employees is.

We also want to stress that it is crucial that employers do not retaliate against employees who take parental leave, or who make accommodation requests. Demoting or terminating pregnant employees is illegal, not to mention bad form. Pregnancy leaves and accommodations are an opportunity to support our employees.

If you have questions about pregnancy leave laws and how best to accommodate pregnant employees, Eos HR can answer them. We’re a team of HR professionals helping small businesses navigate complicated employment laws so owners can focus on other priorities. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more.