When a couple plans to start a family or have another child, the announcement of a pregnancy is typically a reason to celebrate. Unfortunately, despite the fact that U.S. and California state laws require employers to extend important employment protections to pregnant women, companies do not always respect those laws. As a result, new mothers often face discrimination during or after childbirth that may force them to make a difficult decision between providing for their family and safeguarding their new child.

Women in diverse industries may face discrimination on the job that can put their career at risk or even endanger a pregnancy. It is essential that families know that the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, the California Family Rights Act and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offer important employment protections for women during and after pregnancy.

Family and Medical Leave Act

Under the federally mandated FMLA, all state, local and federal government employees and workers for private companies with at least 50 employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off after giving birth. The FMLA also states that workers returning from approved leave must be able to resume their original job or take on a similar position after returning to work, and employers must retain on-leave workers on any group health care plan during that time.

California Family Rights Act

The CFRA grants employees Pregnancy Disability Leave rights for up to 16 weeks (four months) after childbirth as well as job and health-benefit protections. The CFRA also differs from the FMLA in offering protections to employees working for companies with a minimum of five employees, rather than 50, and California state law considers registered domestic partners to be lawfully equal to married spouses.

U.S. Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act offers protections both before and after childbirth, including many medical conditions related to the pregnancy itself, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. This act provides safeguards for unfair employment practices ranging from failing to provide lighter-duty tasks to refusing needed medical leave.