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Maternity leave is a significant benefit available to many California employees. Having the time to recover physically from childbirth and bond with your new baby is crucial. Recognizing this, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and California Pregnancy Disability Leave law allows employees up to 28 weeks of leave for pregnancy, birth, and baby bonding.

Unfortunately, many employers in California either don’t understand state and federal laws correctly or don’t care to apply the laws as they are required. Their irresponsible and unethical actions rob unknowing mothers of time with their infants that they will never get back.

Suppose you or someone you love is a California employee expecting a child or has recently had a child. In that case, a California employment lawyer can help them ensure they receive the maternity leave they are entitled to take under all applicable state and federal laws.

Pregnancy Disability Leave

Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) gives California employees job-protected but unpaid maternity leave. Employees may be considered disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition such as a pregnancy loss or complication. Once a doctor determines that they are disabled, a pregnant employee has the option to take as many as 16 weeks of disability leave. This time can be used both before and after giving birth.

Getting Paid During PDL

A doctor’s determination of a pregnancy-related disability is the only eligibility requirement for PDL. Since it’s unpaid, not everyone will decide to use it. However, it’s a relief to know that job protection is available if necessary.

Employees are permitted to use their own vacation or PTO time to receive their regular income during PDL if they want to. Some employers may even require that they use their PTO before taking unpaid leave.

In addition, expecting employees may apply for short-term disability benefits through the California State Disability Insurance program. However, a doctor must certify that their inability to work is because of their pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition. In addition, the employee is only eligible to receive disability benefits during the time that they are considered unable to work.

California Family Rights Act Leave

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) gives employees as many as 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a new child. This law applies no matter if a new child joins their family via biological birth or adoption. Either parent is eligible to take this leave, even if they are both employed at the same place. However, CFRA baby bonding leave doesn’t cover pregnancy disability.

Eligibility requirements to take this type of leave include:

  • Being a full-time or part-time employee working in California
  • The employer has a minimum of five employees
  • The employee has been employed by the current employer for a minimum of 12 months
  • The employee has worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months

Employees have the option to take CFRA leave at the end of their pregnancy disability or the end of their four months of pregnancy disability leave, whichever comes first. Most expectant and new parents arrange it so that their CFRA begins after their new child’s birth, but it can be used anytime during the child’s first year of life. In fact, it can even be used sporadically; there’s no requirement to use it in consecutive weeks.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Vs. CFRA

Many employees confuse the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and CFRA or think they are the same. However, they have many differences, including:

  • FMLA is a federal program; CFRA is state-based and only used in California.
  • Just being pregnant can qualify someone for FMLA, but CFRA only covers time off if there are pregnancy complications as determined by a physician
  • Domestic partners often find it more difficult to use FMLA coverage than CFRA coverage
  • FMLA requires much more documentation/eligibility proof than CFRA does

In some circumstances, FMLA and CFRA can work together, known as concurrent leave. Concurrent leave can be used together with either law, but it can’t be used simultaneously. For example, if an employee is eligible for FMLA, they can take as many as 12 weeks of leave on top of the 12 weeks available through CFRA. Therefore, an eligible employee would have the option of a total of 24 weeks off work to take care of their family in one year. Concurrent leave is an ideal way for employees to ensure that they can take time off from work and retain their job.

How Does Job Protection Work During Maternity Leave?

Under California law, parents who exercise their rights using pregnancy disability or family leave can’t be terminated for either requesting or using the time off.

It’s essential to note that even though employers don’t have to offer any type of monetary compensation to employees who use these types of leaves, they must:

  • Allow them to use earned vacation, sick, or PTO time to receive a paycheck
  • Maintain their benefits, such as healthcare coverage
  • Provide the employee with their same job or a similar job once they come back from leave
  • Allow the employee to accrue seniority while on leave and use any rights or entitlements that come with their seniority

New parents taking time off work to bond with a new child (or other important family reasons) might be eligible for paid family leave, such as paternity leave. If eligible, California employees can take as many as eight weeks of benefits for paid family leave. These benefits are 60-70 percent of their weekly pay calculated using the 18 months before their claim begins.

Employees should understand that paid family leave isn’t and doesn’t provide job protection in itself. However, new and expectant parents might be covered by PDL and CFRA, which will provide them with job protection.

Questions About Your Maternity Leave? Speak with a California Employment Attorney Today

We stand up for your rights as a California employee at the Mara Law Firm. Contact us online today or call us at 619-648-2550 to find out how we can help you.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

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