When the editor of a popular magazine was let go from her job on Aug. 22 while on maternity leave, it caused many people to wonder what protections exist for pregnant women or women who have just given birth. There is no federal guarantee of maternity leave. While workers throughout the country are protected from discrimination under a federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, California workers have additional protections.

Most workers can take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act. This allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and can serve as maternity leave. Workers usually must provide some kind of proof of the need to be off work, and employers must allow them to return to the same job or its equivalent. However, employers are not prohibited from firing an employee whos is on FMLA leave. While it would not be legal to do so simply because someone was pregnant, it might be legal if the termination is for performance reasons.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which is separate from FMLA, specifically protects women who are or who might become pregnant. It requires employers to treat pregnant women or potentially pregnant women in the same way regarding training, benefits, promotions and pay.

People who feel that they have faced discrimination for taking family leave might want to speak with an attorney. This unfairness might include not providing leave as required or terminating someone for taking leave. Those who findthemselves in such a situation should document the situation as thoroughly as possible. An attorney might provide advice regarding their rights and next steps. While it might be possible to speak to someone within the organization and resolve the issue, it might become necessary to seek recourse through litigation.