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Maternity Leave Rights


Both Federal and California Law authorize twelve (12) weeks per year of protected Leave for the birth of a child and to care for that child.  Both laws have the same eligibility requirements for employees.  However, there are significant differences, and California’s framework generally provides more protections and benefits to the employee.

Whereas the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) extends this provision to employers with 50 or more employees, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) applies to employers with five or more employees (prior to 2021, the minimum number of employees was also 50).  Also, whereas the FMLA covers pregnancy as a “serious health condition,” pregnancy leave in California is separately covered under the Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) law.  Unlike FMLA and CFRA, all employees can be eligible for California’s PDL.  

FMLA is generally not relevant in light of the stronger rights and protections under California law, with the exception of certain military family leave provisions that are stronger under FMLA.

The general framework in California includes ‘Leave’ laws that provide job security and allow you to return to the same job or a comparable position when you return from leave (PDL and CFRA), and disability benefits intended replace a percentage of your income while on leave (DI and PFL).

Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL)

  • Employers with 5 or more employees must give you up to 4 months of unpaid disability leave because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related illness.  The amount of protected leave available to you is determined by your normal work schedule.

  • Pregnancy alone is not a qualifying disability, but complications such as severe morning sickness, the need for bed rest, prenatal or postnatal care, post-partum depression, or loss or end of pregnancy would be considered a disability.  A woman is disabled by her pregnancy if, in the opinion of her doctor, she is unable to perform any one or more of the essential functions of her job because of her pregnancy.

  • By around the 36th week of pregnancy, most women experience some difficulty performing one or more essential job function and would be eligible for PDL. Additionally, most women will need about 6 weeks of post-birth recovery time for a vaginal birth without complications, or about 8 weeks recovery time for a c-section.

  • If your employer has a policy that provides more leave time for other types of temporary disability than what you would be entitled to under PDL, the same amount of leave must be made available to you for disability due pregnancy-related disability.

  • PDL also requires that employers supply you with a reasonable accommodation and transfer you to a less hazardous or strenuous job. However, employers can deny any reasonable accommodation request if they can prove it would be an undue burden.

  • There is no minimum length of service requirement to qualify for pregnancy disability leave, and part-time employees are eligible.

  • Your PDL may run concurrently with Federal FMLA leave if you are eligible for both (FMLA has more stringent requirements).

  • After exhausting PDL requirements, you may be eligible for CFRA leave to bond with your new baby.

State Disability Insurance for Pregnancy (DI)

  • As a pregnant woman, you can receive up to 4 weeks of Disability Insurance (DI) benefits for a normal pregnancy before your expected due date. 


  • You can also receive up to 6 weeks for vaginal birth or 8 weeks for C-section of DI benefits to recover from childbirth. Before the end of your DI-related pregnancy claim, you should receive a form from the Employment Development Department to transition to PFL to bond with your new baby.


California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

  • After the baby is born, eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid job-protected leave during a 12-month period. 

  • While on leave, employees keep the same employer-paid health benefits they had while working.

  • Eligible employees can take the leave for one or more of the following reasons:

    • The birth of a child or adoption or foster care placement of a child.

    • To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition.

    • When the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition (SHC).

  • To be an eligible employee, the employee must: 

    • (1) have worked for the covered employer for more than 12 months and 

    • (2) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to their leave.


Paid Family Leave (PFL)

  • This law provides up to 8 weeks of temporary disability insurance to take time off of work to bond with your new baby, or to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, or registered domestic partner. 

  • It is administered by the State Disability Insurance (SDI) program.


  • For eligible employees, PFL runs concurrently with CFRA and/or FMLA.

Lactation Rights 


The California Fair Employment and Housing Act and the California Labor Code provide benefits and protections to nursing moms who desire to express breastmilk for their infant child.

Call us for a free consultation.


If you believe that your employer has violated your rights to pregnancy leave or accommodations, or has terminated, harassed or retaliated against you because of your pregnancy, give us a call for a free, confidential consultation.  Our office generally works on a contingency-fee basis for these claims and we do not collect fees unless we obtain money for you.  Our Firm will fight tirelessly to protect and defend the rights of every employee to work in a place that is fair and free from discrimination and harassment. 


Call the Falchetti Law Firm at (626) 831-9070  or email us here.

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