The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) contains provisions protecting employees from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions. These provisions cover all employers of five or more employees, or one employee in harassment complaints. Government Code section 12945 of the FEHA requires an employer with at least five employees to provide up to four months disability leave to employees for pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Employers of five or more employees may be required to provide additional leave beyond the four months under the California Family Rights Act or as a reasonable accommodation of a disability under Government Code section 12940 of the FEHA. Pregnancy leave is required only when a woman is actually disabled. This includes time off needed for prenatal care, severe morning sickness, doctor-ordered bed rest, childbirth, recovery from childbirth, and related medical conditions.
Pregnancy is considered a disability under the law which must be reasonably accommodated. Pregnant employees must be permitted to work as long as they are able to work with reasonable accommodation, and employers must hold open their position during their leave of absence. Upon return from their pregnancy/maternity leave, employees who have been out on such a leave must generally be given the same position they performed before going out on their pregnancy/maternity leave, or a similar position. An employee may have legal remedies if, for instance, she is terminated or demoted during her pregnancy or shortly after returning from maternity leave. Refusal to hire someone when she is pregnant is unlawful if the basis for the refusal is due to the pregnancy.