Maternity Leave California

Pregnant women often find that maternity leave is complicated and daunting. It does not have to be! There are a few basics that we cover in this post: what are your rights, what if your boss is upset that you will take a leave, and what to do if you get fired. Taking maternity leave in California is better than most states. The laws protect you here more than anywhere else in the country.

Basic Maternity Leave Rights in CA

The first question that many expecting employees face is whether they are entitled to maternity leave at all. The answer is usually, yes! California’s main pregnancy leave of absence laws (FMLA, CFRA, PDL, FEHA) apply to most employers. You have a right to take maternity leave. Employers are not required to pay employees during maternity leave. Even though employees do not have a right to pay from their employers during maternity leave, most California employees have a right to California’s state disability insurance during their leave. Fortunately, pregnancy related illnesses are considered disabilities by California law; employees often have a right to disability insurance payments during their leave. Visit California’s EDD website for more information.

Leave to Bond With Your Child – 12 Weeks

California provides leave rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”). To be eligible for leave under CFRA, certain requirements must be met. The employee must work for an employer that has at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius of the employee’s worksite. The employee must have worked for their employer more than 12 months. The employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer of work in the preceding year.

If these requirements are met, the employee is entitled to take up to 12 weeks of family care and medical leave in any given 12-month period. This leave can be used for the purpose of child bonding. To learn more about FMLA & CFRA visit this page that details who is eligible. 

Pregnancy Disability In CA – Four Months

In California, expecting employees are not only entitled to maternity leave for the childbirth itself, but they also have a right to time off for disabilities related to the pregnancy as well. The definition of “disabled” is fairly broad. Most employers that have five or more employees, which includes most businesses in California, are governed by California’s main pregnancy discrimination law, the Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA).

A law directly under FEHA is CA’s pregnancy disability law, PDL, which requires employers to give female employees time off work if:

  • She is disabled by pregnancy
  • She is disabled by childbirth
  • She has a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth

This can include, but is not limited too, the following: childbirth, loss of child, post-partum depression, bed-rest, prenatal care, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, postnatal care, etc.

How long can you pregnancy disability leave last? FEHA gives female employees a right to maternity leave for up to four months. However, this maternity leave is only available to the employee as long as she is disabled from the childbirth, pregnancy, or some related condition.

The right to as much as 12 weeks of bonding time under CFRA is distinct from the right to pregnancy disability leave under FEHA. Accordingly, the bonding time under CFRA may be taken after the employee takes up to four months of pregnancy disability leave—totaling up to as much as seven months of total maternity leave depending on the length of the employee’s pregnancy disability.

Does maternity leave need to be taken all at once?

Maternity Leave CaliforniaNo, California’s FEHA provides for as much as four months of maternity leave for disabilities related to pregnancy and childbirth. But often disabilities are not continuous. Expecting mothers can take some time off during one trimester, or during an emergency, and then take the rest after delivery. This is called intermittent leave and is considered a reasonable accommodation.

Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees if they’re requested and if a health care provider has advised it. Your employer will likely ask you for a doctors note. If intermittent leave is expected, employers may explore a temporary transfer to a similar position with equal pay and benefits.

Can your company fire you for becoming pregnant?

No. California employers are prohibited from discriminating against female employees due to pregnancy. Employment discrimination based on pregnancy is a type of sex discrimination, which is prohibited by FEHA. Expecting mothers also protected from harassment on the basis of pregnancy.

However, just because you are pregnant, does not mean they cannot fire you. If you are a bad employee, they can fire you. If they are laying off your department, you can go too. If you get fired while you are pregnant suspect the reason you were fired was your pregnancy, call an employment lawyer to investigate your case.

Do California employees have a right to their job after taking maternity leave?

Yes. Employees in California that exercise their right to maternity leave may not be discriminated against for taking a leave of absence. They have a right to return to their same or a similar position after their maternity leave has ended. The employer is not allowed to cut your pay when you return.

2017 Pregnacy Discrimination Update

I originally posted this article on February 27, 2015. I’ve updated it several times. Its now 2017 and some women are wondering if CA’s maternity leave laws have changed at all. First of all, the foundation of CA’s anti-discrimination laws have not changed. If you believe that you were fired because of your pregnancy, disability related to pregnancy, or maternity leave you should call our office for a free consultation. Some administrative rules and laws may have changed in 2017, but the majority of the calls to our office are about termination or expected termination. Therefore, it is unlikely that the maternity leave laws in California that may have changed in 2017 would affect the analysis of our office during your consultation.


Filed under FEHA, Pregnancy

42 Responses to Maternity Leave California

  1. Noor

    I came to USA on H1B in Oct 2013 on behalf of an india based company and working for a client here till date. I am staying and working in CA and my husband is staying and working in FL. Once pregnancy confirmed, I am staying with my husband in FL for his support for me this condition. Now, my doctor is not allowing me to travel and get back to work due to my health condition. So, which leave I could avail now? I heard there is 6 month paid leave applicable for CA employees. Can I avail that leave? Please help.

  2. BraniganRobertson

    Hello, your situation is complicated. Without giving any legal advice online, you could be entitled to pregnancy disability leave. But you would need to consult with an attorney privately. You can call our office or any other that is familiar with CA law. The State of California does have six weeks of paid leave, but that is a state benefit, not through your employer. And you do not get paid your full wage.

  3. J


    I was on Pregnancy Disability Leave for 7.5 months due to post-partum complications. During the 6-7 month of leave, my boss kept calling me telling me my job was going to change as well as my hours and wanted me to commit to those changes, which I told her I could not comment on at the time. She also called me on different occasions saying “since you’ve been out for so long, I and (another employee) has had to do your job and pick up your responsibilities. I can’t do that anymore, I’m swamped.” She’s also on numerous occasions has said, “had you come back earlier…” She also said that “so many things have changed in the company” but when I asked her what those changes were, so could not provide a viable reason that showed the company was experiencing a hardship due to my leave. Everything was based more on a personal level that affected her directly (I’ve logged every conversation we’ve had).

    She basically says these things because my Pregnancy Disability Leave had taken longer than she expected. I told her that I would be filing for baby bonding time from 4/5-4/17 since I have not been able to really bond with my child bc I’ve been recovering from the post-partum complications, to which she never said would be a problem. Yesterday (4/7/17, we spoke on the phone and she basically said this wasn’t working for her and laid me off and sent me a severance package.

    Do I have any rights? To be fair, I only worked at the company for 8.5 months before I went on leave, so I’m not protected under FMLA.

    I feel harassed and bullied by her and don’t know what I should have done differently. Please help if possible.

  4. YaniraGonzalez

    Hello, I am soon leaving on maternity leave and my employer stated I still need to make my insurance payments while I’m out. Is this correct?

  5. Sara Lewis

    Employees of companies with fewer than 50 employees (total, or within 75 miles), or employees who have not worked for their employer for 12 months are not covered by FMLA or CFRA. Do these women have any job protection rights, or can the employer terminate them when they go out on disability? Does the employer have to continue providing health benefits while the woman is on disability, even if she is not returning to work afterward?

  6. Lea


    I will be starting a new job next week and I am four months pregnant. I am worried once I have the baby (since I am newly employed) I will not be able to get my job back since I will not meet the 12 month period mark to receive maternity leave.

  7. Julie kim


    My work will start on June 5th. They have 160days of probation period, but benefit will be provided in 60days. However, Employer does not provide maternity leave.
    I am 7weeks pregnant now and I am expecting my maternity leave will be November.

    My question is there is anyway I can have maternity leave. I read there is 12 months or 1560 hrs of working period is required to get a maternity leave.

    Please help me!

  8. Nicole

    This is my second preg – and the first child I was able to take a total of 4 months off (1 mon prior to deliver/3 mon post). This time around my coworker who is on leave now, and I will be at the end of May – just received notice that under the FMLA she is being denied. So that would only leave her gone for the next 2.5 months. Is this right? Or what other benefits can she obtain to get what we had last year? We’ve both worked at this employer for 6-7 years – but only have 23 employees.

  9. Vanessa

    I am currently only 4 weeks pregnant and I am due January 8th 2018. I’ve been working with my job for about 2 years but as a temp, in March I got hired on to the company. Technically I’ve been her 2 years but with the company by the time I go on leave on maternity leave it will be around 9 months. So what would I qualify for?

  10. BraniganRobertson

    Hi Vanessa, your situation is nuanced and more complicated than most. I’m not sure I understand your question fully. Moreover, I can’t give any legal advice in the comment section of our website. But I can say that I believe it may depend on whether or not you were a dual employee of both companies, whether or not the law allows temp work to qualify under FMLA or CFRA (I’m not sure off the top of my head), and many other factors. I would recommend that you apply for your leave, and if the company denies it, then contact a lawyer for a real consultation.

  11. BraniganRobertson

    Hi Nicole, I don’t fully understand your question as there is a lot of missing information. And I don’t give legal advice online. But I can say that FMLA/CFRA rights don’t apply to employers with less than 50 employees. BUT, disability discrimination and pregnancy discrimination laws do apply. So your situation will need to be examined by a lawyer if your leave is denied or if you get fired.

  12. BraniganRobertson

    Hello there. There is a lot of missing information from your question, and I don’t understand it fully. Why does the employer “not provide maternity leave?” If that is a blanket policy, that would be unlawful (so long as the employer meets the requirements of FMLA/CFRA). I think you should contact a lawyer if your employer denies your request for maternity leave.

  13. BraniganRobertson

    If you don’t meet the 12month, 1250hr, threshold, employers are not required to hold your job open for when you return. However, a lot of employers still allow employees to take maternity leave. You’ll have to request maternity leave and hope that they grant it. If they don’t grant it, it would be worth calling a lawyer for a consultation because there may be discriminatory reasons behind the denial.

  14. BraniganRobertson

    Yes, these women do have job protection rights. The employer is not allowed to discriminate against her because she is pregnant. Its a weird/confusing mess for people to understand, but the employer can’t fire you because of your pregnancy, but they don’t have to hold your job open. Its a very gray area, so if you’re affected seriously, I recommend that you contact a lawyer for a consultation.

  15. BraniganRobertson

    Contact a lawyer for a consultation. This is too complicated for a quick response.

  16. BraniganRobertson

    Contact a lawyer for a consultation. I’m not sure off the top of my head, it may require some legal research.

  17. Shiela pareja

    How long the maternity leave start and last after having a baby?

  18. Stacey

    I have currently worked for my company of 10 people for the past 1.5 years. I was told this week that my training class was cancelled because the owner of the company is not sure if I will be working after I have the baby. Does this qualify as discrimination? I feel that my employer would not do this to a male employee.

  19. Toya

    My six week leave is up and I should be returning to work soon. I worked at a temp agency and wanted to know if I have any job protection rights.

  20. Candice Castro

    Can you explain what you mean or give an example of “workitng up 1250 hrs in the preceding year to qualify?” What time frame is it based on? I have worked for about a year now but only worked part time so I am afraid I don’t fully qualify.

  21. ariana

    hi i feel i am in a complicated situation. i am leaving my current job to a new one for certain things. but i am due in nov. and now i don’t know if i will qualify for any time off. i haven’t been at my current job for a year yet almost though. but at my new job i will not complete a year by the time i have the baby both jobs are considered part time as well that’s why i’m a little confused as to what i qualify for if anything.

  22. Anindita


    I am on H1B and working on a hourly rate as a Consultant in a company in San Francisco. My employer location is Santa Clara.
    I have some doubts regarding my leaves. My expected delivery date is in September. As per California leave policies I am entitled to 6 weeks of leave post delivery which I feel is too less. Also my contract is ending on September. After my leave periods gets over I will have to look for new projects,may be with a different client.

    Is there any way by which the leaves post delivery can be extended? Read about FMLA and Pregnancy Disability Leave in websites. But FMLA needs at least 50 employees directly employed under the employer which I doubt they have. PDL also needs doctor’s note stating that employee is unfit to join work.

    What can I do in this case to extend my leaves? I want to keep my H1B status active. Not willing to convert to H4.


  23. Leada

    Hello. I have 6 weeks left of bonding time in CA. However, I will be starting a different job at a different company. Will I still be entitled to that 6 weeks bonding time with this new company or will I lose it?

  24. Alison

    Hi! So, my employer is saying that I need to take FMLA while I take short term disability. They told me that short term disability is 10 weeks, and my doctor says I need to be off 4 weeks before my due date. Leaving me with 6 weeks. FMLA being 12 weeks, 10 of those would be gone due to the short term disability. Then I would only have 2 weeks of bonding time. A total of 12 weeks. My doctor says that I am allowed to take short term disability for 10 weeks and THEN 12 weeks FMLA. Which is true in this situation? Do I only get 12 weeks total or do I get 22 as my doctor said? Thanks so much in advance

  25. Christina Freeman

    I have worked for my company for almost 2 years. The company was recently sold with an acquisition date of 6/9/17. They are not letting any employees go and all benefits transfer, except, FMLA. They stated that any employee wishing to take short or long term leave has to use the start date of 6/9/17. I’m due in November 2017. It seems so unfair that because of this transfer of ownership, I’m not going to be eligible for FMLA, even though I’ve worked for the company for over 2 years. Do I have any rights to the leave I’ve earned?

  26. BraniganRobertson

    I think you might. I would recommend that you contact an employment lawyer for a consultation.

  27. BraniganRobertson

    Your doctor is right. PDL is distinct from FMLA. But contact a lawyer to get specific legal advice on point.

  28. BraniganRobertson

    That depends, Shiela. Please watch the video above as it explains better than I can in a comment.

  29. BraniganRobertson

    Any employer making an adverse employment decision on the basis of a protected category like sex (which includes pregnancy) is against CA law. That being said, you wouldn’t sue over that. Generally, it only makes sense to lawyer-up when the adverse employment action has tangible economic consequences for the employee. Moreover, an important question for you to answer is whether or not you are legally entitled to FLMA due to the size of the company. If they refuse your maternity leave request, I recommend that you consult with a lawyer.

  30. BraniganRobertson

    It is literally about counting the number of hours you worked for the employer in the 12 months prior to the leave of absence request. 1250 is the magic number.

  31. Jami

    I’ve worked for a startup for almost a year and was previously at another CA startup for several years before this one. Funding has been tight, and the founders decided to lay me off (I’m the only nontechnical employee) at the end of the month (6/30/17). I get one month of severance and three paid months of “maternity leave” which I’m gracious for. However, I’m not due until 8/30/17. Am I eligible for disability insurance and if so, can I apply for it four weeks before my due date? Or do I have to apply once my “maternity leave” pay ends at the end of October? I believe I can apply for PFL, but can’t do that until the baby arrives.

    Thanks for your help! The company is small enough that there no one who really runs HR to ask.

  32. Ambur

    I’m starting my maternity leave in a week. I thought everything was set with work but yesterday they told me they don’t have to legally hold my current shifts for me and they aren’t sure what my shifts will look like upon my return. I’m going out 4 weeks before my due date and planning on being out 12 weeks after. I have already set up childcare for my current work schedule. We don’t have an HR person in our office so I have nobody to ask about this. From what I’ve read on this site, ca website, and DOL website it sounds like they do actually have to hold my current shifts for me during the 4 months I’ll be out. Am I understanding this correctly?

  33. Kim

    Hi! I am 20 weeks pregnant and my employer knows about it. I’ve been working for them for 2 years and my employer pays 100% for my health insurance. However, my manager told me that when I leave for pregnancy to give birth, she told me that I should pay for my my health insurance which is about 2 to 3 months. Is this even legal? What are my rights for this since I will need my health insurance to give birth? Thanks!!

  34. My company is headquartered in CA but I work in outside sales in another state. The company is offering zero maternity leave do you consider this discrimination to employees outside the state of CA?

  35. Tina

    If I work less than part time do I qualify for any baby bonding time?

  36. Erika

    I do not qualify for fmla, but I was wondering if I could still get bonding time? I work for the county of Los Angeles.

  37. Stacy

    How long does an employer need to keep an employee after she comes back from maternity leave.

  38. BraniganRobertson

    Hi Stacy. There is no hard and fast rule. In CA, almost all employment is at-will. So an employer can fire an employee the day they return. HOWEVER, if the employers motive for terminating the employee is discriminatory (i.e. because she will be burdened with caring for the child now and the boss doesn’t want employees with children) then that employer violates the law. That is pregnancy discrimination and you should view this page.

  39. rosalina

    I’m a little confuse with maternity leave. I have a few questions.
    1. Is true that you can get 4 weeks before your due date?
    2. If you don’t get those 4 weeks before your due date can you use them for after birth?
    3. How long is maternity leave?

  40. Itzayana


    I already took my 6 weeks off after giving birth. I heard I can take 6 more weeks off before my baby turns 1. If I do take those 6 extra weeks off will I receive SDI?

  41. Rose

    Hello, I am currently pregnant and will be taking PDL in November 2017. My last pregnancy I had pos partum depression and wasn’t aware I could take more time for this. My question is, if I get diagnosed with postpartum depression this time around, do I still qualify for income replacement benefits?

  42. Ambar Barrera

    I will be starting a new job August 21st. I’ve been on. Waitlist since march for this position I was not aware I was pregnant at the time of interviews but now as I am getting the offer I am 26 weeks. I’m a little scared of the information as far as if I’ll have my job when I get back or the ability to take maternity leave since I will be very new. Can you shed any like or information on that? I know I won’t get 6weeks paid leave from them but via state am I entitled to Any leave.

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