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

16 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.

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