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Your Maternity Leave Rights in California If You Work for an Employer with 5 to 19 Employees

Updated: Sep 17

If you work for a company with 5 to 19 employees, you can take four months of disability leave.

You are only entitled to pregnancy disability leave, and no bonding leave. Only the birth mother can take pregnancy disability leave. However, the law is changing as of 2021 and you will also be able to take bonding leave! So if you are pregnant now, you will likely be able to take disability leave followed by bonding leave, as you will be entitled to the same rights as workers who work for a company with 20 or more employees.

Your Right to Four Months of Disability Leave for Pregnancy, Pregnancy-related Condition or Birth

under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

These rules apply if you work in California for an employer with 5 or more employees

You can take up to four months of leave for your pregnancy, pregnancy-related condition, or birth. Four months is slightly rounded down, it's actually 17 1/3 weeks. This leave can be taken in increments or on a continual basis.

Please know your doctor has to approve this 4 month stretch. Some doctors are less willing to do this than others. You may need to advocate with your doctor that you want to take the entire 4 months of disability. Once your doctor declares you're no longer disabled, you are not entitled to disability leave. If you have no pregnancy-related conditions and want to maximize the time with your baby, you can start this leave on the day of the birth. If you have pregnancy-related conditions or want to take a few weeks prior to birth to prepare for the baby, you can take this leave before birth, but then you will lose this time after the baby is born.

The Rules of Disability Leave (FEHA)

  • All employees are entitled to disability leave, regardless of length of service or hours worked.

  • Four months mean the numbers of days or hours that you would work within four months. (e.g. If you're part time, you don't get eight months)

  • You can take this leave intermittently or on a reduced schedule basis, but if it's too difficult for the employer you may be transferred to a light duty position, as long as there is no change to your pay or benefits.

  • Pregnancy disability includes severe morning sickness, time off for prenatal care, and PPD.

  • Disability leave is unpaid. Click here for more information about benefits during leave.

  • When you return from pregnancy disability leave, you should be returned to the same or comparable position. Click here for more information on reinstatement.

If you work for an employer with 20 or more employees, you are entitled to disability leave as well as bonding leave. To learn more about bonding leave, please click here.

If you work for an employer with four or less employees, you have no maternity leave rights at all. I'm sorry. You can still try of course, but they're not expected to grant any leave. Some employers will still allow for some leave under their policies, but it would be a privilege, not a right. Try arguing for yourself. Explain the benefits of having the reputation of being a family friendly company. Promise your employer you will tell everyone in town how generous your they are. You never know!

Make sure to share this article if you found it helpful.

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 Momattorney 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.

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