Your Rights During Pregnancy - How Do I Keep My Job?

Updated: Jun 9, 2021

Pregnancy is a disability for the purposes of the law, which means that pregnancy is protected by disability discrimination laws. I always felt like it’s a bit strange to call pregnancy a disability, until I was 38 weeks pregnant and I called a coworker to come pick me up from the pharmacy because the walk (3 blocks in the heat) just seemed too arduous.

Pregnancy Discrimination Rights under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act

These rules apply to workers in California working for employers with 5 or more employees.

Disability discrimination laws provide that if a pregnant woman is doing her job, she cannot be fired or demoted on account of her pregnancy, or otherwise treated worse than non-pregnant employees.

If you feel treated differently because of your pregnancy, click here to read more about discrimination.

Pregnancy Accommodation Rights under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act

These rules apply to workers in California working for employers with 5 or more employees.

If you have a high-risk pregnancy or certain pregnancy-related conditions which affects your ability to do your job, you may need accommodations. If a pregnant woman is requesting reasonable accommodations to do her job, the employer has a duty to explore this request. This means discussing her request with her, reviewing her medical records, and trying to find a way to make it work. That doesn’t mean the employer has to grant your request if you can't do the work. You still need to be able to do the job. But your employer has to try to figure out a reasonable adjustment to your existing job. The important word here is reasonable. So you can ask for a chair if you're generally standing.

If stairs become a challenge, you may request to switch offices to be on the ground floor. You can potentially ask for a flex schedule or partial remote work depending on the industry. Some other examples include: modifications of duties, schedules, more frequent breaks, and supporting tools or furniture like extra chairs. You can ask to be moved to a less stressful or dangerous position if there are openings in another department.

You can NOT ask for your employer to provide you with a nap pod or daily cookie deliveries or for Ryan Gosling to massage your swollen feet while you make customer calls. (If only…)

Your employer is also not required to create a job for you, to fire another employee so you can take over the job, or to transfer you to a position you are unqualified to do.

While exploring accommodation options, the key is to have an open dialogue between you, your doctor, and your employer.

You're expected to cooperate in these discussions. It may get a little awkward at times, as exploring accommodations necessarily means a discussion about your physical limitations. Employers are generally under a duty to respect their employees' privacy, but in the accommodations discussions you may need to let some of that go if you want it to be effective.

You're absolutely capable of advocating for your body, your baby, and your job all at the same time.

A lot of people get confused here. They think they have to pick one. You don't. It's totally fine to say, "I want to keep my job and I also need a slight alteration to my job." If your employer declines, offer another one. If your employer declines, offer a third one. Keep trying until you find something sticks. Can't do your current job because of your pregnancy? Ask if you can be transferred to a light duty position. See if you can do something else within the organization for the rest of your pregnancy, even if you're sitting in your bed stamping envelopes. It's just a few months. Unlike other disabilities, pregnancy has a specific end time.

You want to be the one who is creative and cooperative. It's a pretty bad look for the employer when you're trying really hard and they're not doing anything to reach a compromise. They can't just say no until the options are fully explored. If they do say no, there has to be a specific reason that the business will be burdened by your accommodations.

The accommodations process is interactive, fluid and flexible. It's specifically designed to keep employees with limitations in the workforce. Keep that in mind. That's what the law expects of your employer.

Be persistent and be creative.

Did you find this helpful? Make sure to share it with your friends. Good luck, mama!

Did you experience discrimination? Contact me here.

DISCLAIMER - This blog is for educational purposes and to give general information and a general understanding of the laws relating to California employment law. It is not intended to provide specific legal advice, nor should you use it for that purpose. By using this blog you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Mamattorney or Gruenberg Law and you should not use this blog as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. We don't know anything about your particular situation, and the law has many exceptions. If you have a dispute with your employer, you need to consult with an employment lawyer.