California court rules that pregnancy is akin to disability

Many California workers may understand that they are entitled to some unpaid leave for qualified medical reasons. One of these reasons is often pregnancy or the birth of a child. However, the amount of time that employees are allowed to take off for a pregnancy is often limited under federal and California employment laws but a recent California court case may change that.

In this case, a female employee of an airport shipping and maintenance company cleaned airplanes for a living. When doctors informed the woman that she was having a high risk pregnancy, she was ordered to go on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. Soon after, the woman told her employer about her bed rest and leave.

Under California employee laws pregnant women are entitled to 16 weeks of medical leave. The woman’s employer gave her this leave and she used an additional three weeks of her personal vacation time. However, when the 19 weeks of leave were up, the woman was still months away from her due date and needed to continue bed rest. Therefore, her employer fired her.

The woman sued her employer. Her employer asked the lower court to throw the case out since they had give the woman the time off that was required under California law. The woman appealed. Recently, the California Court of Appeals ruled that the case should not have been thrown out.

According to the Court of Appeals, the woman has a case for discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. According to the court, pregnancy should be treated like a disability and the employer should have provided reasonable accommodations.

This ruling could change California employment laws and give pregnant woman more medical leave. Employers and employees alike should know and understand their legal rights and obligations when it comes to pregnancy.

Source: The Press-Enterprise, “WORKPLACE: Facebook friends?,” Jack Katzanek, March 1, 2013

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